Album Review // First Flight by Oakes & Smith

By Kevin Tshiamala

It is mid January and the Michigan winter cold has brought nothing but chapped lips, frozen fingers and ashy knuckles. The haunting darkness, icy snow, and shitty drivers are crippling to any desire of escaping your warm and cozy home – stir crazy to say the least – And in times such as these, the music of Oakes & Smith, can easily be underappreciated.

The folk duo, based out of Tyringham, both raised in musically talented families, released their debut album, First Flight, a couple months ago in November. The album consists of twelve beautifully engineered and produced tracks with good harmonies and passionate storytelling. Songs such as “Before Dawn,” which is reminiscent of “Because” by The Beatles, and “By the Ocean” are melodically eloquent and profound. With “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” a folk staple, Robert, Katherine and their team of acclaimed mixers (Oz Fritz), engineers (James Goodwin), producers (Jason Loughlin) and musicians (Zack Cross) put together a different and charming rendition. Throughout the album, Oakes and Smith’s vocal tones play off of one another very well, but it is evident through songs such as “Being Broken” and the title track that Smith has the range, technique and carries the weight. Nonetheless the sound is still poignant.

Although the album has its commendable moments, at times, especially in this cold melancholy winter, it is hard for First Flight to not have the effect of a sleepy album. The power of the folksy hymn exhibited through greats such as Simon & Garfunkel or even Norah Jones is not so prevalent in this talented duos debut album. The balance between the harmony and instruments in a folk score if done correctly is what captivates the audience, but with songs such as “You Beside Me” and “Factory Girl” this is lacking. With songs of this tempo, genre and sound it is a daunting task to make it through all twelve tracks in one sitting. A few upbeat songs would have done this album some good.

When it comes down to it, First Flight is an album for the picking. In which I mean, depending on the day you will pick the album and it will do you right and others you will find, you are better without.

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