DocFell & Co. – Heaven, Hell Or Oklahoma review: A Little Taste of Beulah Lan

The current country music rush to the mainstream is one that has led to much innovation. The melding of the genre with others such as hip-hop has opened bold new possibilities that have yearned crossovers and new sounds for Country to explore. DocFell & Co choose to keep it traditional in “Heaven, Hell Or Oklahoma” and prove that sometimes the roots are where some of the best sounds can come from.

Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma is a polarizing album. Tracks such as End of the Line are full of heart and a lively beat to play to the strengths of vocalist John Fell. Lines such as “a kingdom, a castle built of steel and chrome” speak as an ode to the American truck driver, a grassroots country throwback. While others such as “California, Kansas, Missouri, and Maine. World passin me by in the outside lane” speaks to the loneliness and transience that comes with such a profession, seeing so much but never stopping to call one place home. Slim Says is another one of these tracks, a very quotable track full of zippy one-liners that won’t soon be forgotten. “Worn out pros and tired cliches, nobody’s listenin to waltzes these days” and, “Slim says the radio’s dead, better pull the hearse around” are just a few of the delightful lyrics from this standout track. One of the best on the album, Mean Marie is another standout track that has fun with the titular character who “Even the Devil knows to leave her be.” These tracks also put the production of Dave Percefull front and center, showing a wide variety of mixing chops that gives each of these tracks life.

The album, however, is not without fault. It is plagued by slow, dreary tracks such as In Your Eyes and Peacemaker. While lyrically sound and heartfelt, both of these tracks feel lackluster compared to those with a more lively beat. This comes to a head when comparing the vocal performances of these slower ballads with others on the album. Tracks such as Beulah Land and Three Chords deliver a somber and introspective mood without constraining the vocal performance. Sometimes the mood is conveyed without sacrificing the comfortable sound of bouncy beats, rambling guitars and bridging fiddles that the album finds in its best tracks. These tracks feel more like pauses than a change of pace as they sound out of place among the rest of the tracks. This is because vocalist John Fell’s voice is much more at home dancing with the vocals than mourning through them.

Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma is a nice return to country roots. The excellent production value brought to the album when backed by the already insane talents of DocFell & Co are amplified in the best ways. The songs that hit hard and spring to life do so like a rocket and will be stuck in your head for days or weeks to come. Those that don’t never will among the more livelier tracks and will more than likely end up being skipped.

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