album reviews

Ernest Jenning Record Co. (2011)

Kindred spirits: Neil Young, Ralph Stanley, 16 Horsepower.

Indie-Americana quintet O'Death hails from New York — not exactly a hotbed of authentic alt-country culture. Still, on its third studio album, "Outside," the group manages a convincing take on the genre.

The album does end up a bit on the repetitive side, but it opens strongly, with the hushed "Bugs" and subtly ominous "Ghost Head" nicely introducing the album's sinister tone. At its best, the group rattles with a quivering energy that's barely restrained. The standout track is the ghostly "Black Dress," whose trembling drum beat and haunting violin melodies create an alluringly unsettling feel augmented by Greg Jamie's frail, Neil Young-like vocals.

By the album's midpoint, however, you might feel as if you've heard it all before. Then again, this is a band that doesn't exactly hide its obvious inspiration: Its name comes from a traditional Appalachian song most famously covered by Ralph Stanley on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. There's plenty of originality to be found in that style, but O'Death treads a fairly narrow path through Americana's darker sound, limiting itself to the mellow vibe that permeates "Outside."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 26 August 2011
.: Outside on