The Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers 'Ocooch Mountain Home' - Self Release

Nikki Grossman and Joe Hart are the proud owners of the splendid woodpecker-derived moniker. This, their second album of old time country music, was recorded in the acoustic environs of a 100 year old converted church. It was recorded by Tom Herbers direct to one inch analog tape and as such captures an intimate live in-studio performance. Performance is a key word here as both Sapsuckers have immersed themselves in the music of the 20 and 30s and have also adopted a visual sartorial representation of earlier times, if the cover picture is anything to go by that is.

Although their music is inspired by an earlier time, they have written the majority of these songs, either individually or together. They have created both the feel and sound of that earlier time, but without ever feeling stuck in a time warp. That is essentially down to the energy and enthusiasm in the way they approach their music. Their musical style is not unique, but rather attains its individuality in the combination of their voices, their undoubted humour and their obvious musical skills. The duo are joined on some songs by Patrick Harison on lap steel and accordion which adds texture to the sound.

This is particularly telling on the Spanish language Medalla de Dios, where the accordion takes us south of the border in a song that is full of passion and features an outstanding vocal from Grossman. Equally the lap steel on the country song Beneath a Neon Star in a Honky Tonk, flavours the song and underscores the variety of style that the duo can bring. Their prowess on fiddle and guitar, with their strong vocals, is the bedrock of the duo’s success and charm. 

The roots of country, as it once was, are on display here; the string band and Appalachian textures meeting the more urban country contours in a way that makes perfect sense. Given that they are a duo (for the most part live) the interaction between Grossman and Hart makes them a flexible and formidable listening experience that does not need any additional input to deliver the goods. The Wisconsin based duo obviously enjoy what they do as will a lot of others, so check out this rewarding and resolute album, one so perfectly suited to those who might want to remember a time that music was not just about sales figures.