If ever an album title was created with the subconscious aim of getting my attention it’s Doom Folk (Exile On Mainstream Records), the fourth solo album from multi-faceted German troubadour Conny Ochs. More famed in Metal circles for his collaborations with Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, Ochs’ own output is equally as relevant – perhaps more so.
Ochs’ base in pared-back Blues is still evident in his later music but there’s a more profound air to Doom Folk: opener ‘Dark Tower’ a lead-led musing on depression, the chords and rhythm minimalist yet cohesive, the baritone harmonies bringing to mind a more mellifluous Chris Cornell, to whom the track is dedicated. ‘Crash And Burn’ is more maudlin, a soporific lament with backing vocals lending a classy, leisurely Country air: while the bass-heavy, sparing rambles of ‘Hammer To Fit’, ‘Drunken Monkey’ and ‘Gun In The Cradle’ lean towards the gorgeous, easy songcraft of both Neil Finn and Roddy Frame.
Part of Ochs’ appeal is his ability to say so much so gently while straddling genres and decades. ‘King Of The Dead’, despite its lyrical depth, is delivered in a relatively light-hearted style: while the beautiful, sad Folk of ‘Moon’ and the aching ‘New Ruins’ have a wonderful layered vocal over rich acoustic guitar tones straight from the John Martyn songbook. Despite the inclusion of wah-wah effects and lazy Latin percussion, ‘It’s All Too Bright’ carries the feel and atmosphere of an early sixties Adam Faith ballad: and the electric riff of the oft-rhythmless ‘Crawling’ is steeped in Chuck Berry-era Rock ‘n’ Roll.
There’s a Tom Petty vibe to the edgy Country Rock of ‘Oracle’, the Bluegrass steel guitar and piano effects giving the track a “Don’t mess” character: while the tremendously affecting closer ‘Sweet Delusion’ sees a return to that moving Martyn-esque minimalism. It’s an album steeped in the aesthetics and emotions of music while retaining a delightful accessibility which, despite its sad undercurrents, makes for an uplifting experience. Doom Folk for Doom folk maybe, but this is anything but an exercise in misery.
7 / 10