Conny Ochs – Black Happy

After a successful collaboration with Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich for 2012’s Heavy Kingdom, Conny Ochs is back with his follow-up to pick-up from his 2011 debut solo album Raw Love. After a decade’s worth of time spent in various bands in one capacity or another he certainly has his songwriting craft down to something more than just the usual insipid formula spewed out by the modern charts. Taking in elements of folk, blues, country and Americana and yet sounding like none of these Conny Ochs, like his countryman Shino, is admirably walking the same path as the greats but refreshingly, is not simply reproducing their work.

There are a few songs that get some more interesting instrumentation, but the basic pattern is very much voice and acoustic guitar, which is enough to get Ochs by as he can inject plenty of emotion into both.

Though the songs on the album feel disconnected from each other, there is an overarching sense of melancholy similar to Heavy Kingdom throughout the entire album. But unlike on Heavy Kingdom, with no one to bounce ideas off, Ochs is free to become more confessional and perform with a more defined sense of comfort that still manages to avoid becoming tired and predictable.

The strongest points on the album ‘Exile’, ‘Die In Your Arms’, ‘Lead Out’, ‘Mouth’ are all great songs that are written with a good understanding of not only the genres he is influenced by, but also his strengths as a performer. However the album’s jewel is probably the sublimely creepy (but short) a capella track ‘Faces In The Crowd’ with it’s Irish folk tinge that really shows off the emotive power Ochs can create.

However there is nothing really new here to shout about. Yes, it avoids becoming a pail imitation of the greats, and yes, Ochs’ ability to perform a capella is very impressive by anyone’s standards. But he doesn’t push himself very far, which is a shame as it is very evident that Ochs has the talent to really do some interesting things here.

6.5/10

Sean M. Palfrey

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