It’s tough to be the brother of Paul and Will Oldham. But since 1997, brother Ned Oldham has carved a strong nook in the contemporary folk scene with Anomoanon. The cast behind Ned revolves, but he’s joined here by Dave Heumann, Aram Smith on lead guitar and Jack Carneal on his band’s latest (and first that wasn’t released by the family label Palace), Asleep Many Years in the Wood.
In a world dominated by angst and frivolous lyrics it’s nice to hear an album that resonates with genuine affection. The album was inspired by the birth of Ned’s son and daughter; it resonates with a personal charm and sincerity. The listener is brought into Anomoanon’s dream in the wood, and with the slow ballads and smooth picking we fall comfortably asleep in this melodious wood, and do not want to wake up.
The Anomoanon is more rocking than most of the stuff the rest of the Oldhams release. Still, the band’s more raucous numbers, like “Kick Back,” sound a little forced. The band is comfortable in its mellow trill and the picked up pace sounds almost as awkward as Ned’s screeching “Kicking Back” mid-song. Still, opener “Sixteen Ways” is wonderful, as is most of the first half of the album.
In “Sadie and Rudy” the band gradually reclines into a deeper and strident sound in the story of two discontented lovers, and it mirrors the culmination of the relationship as the last chord rings out. “As they lay down in the meadow baby held a snake, came and slithered across their blanket. Oh don’t argue my sweetheart its time to go.” The chord progression picks up. “And eventually they have no memory of what had come before.”
In the harmony and truth of familial content, bands that can still pick the chords of discontent naturally rifle our lives. This makes Asleep Many Years in the Wood such a well-rounded record and prevents the declarations from sounding trite while documenting the complexity of relationships.Asleep Many Years in the Wood is the Anomoanon’s brand of ’70s southern rock in its best form yet.