Published Nov 25, 2013Oxford Blue is appropriately named. Patrick Lefler's musical namesake, a pale-blue fabric, shares many qualities with his music: it's familiar, comforting, and carries with it just a hint of twang and cigarette smoke. The album exudes a certain road-worn introspection, but blends this country feel with a strong indie-rock influence.
Canadian country time-traveler Daniel Romano and lap steel aficionado Aaron Goldstein produced the album, and their influence is prominent; almost too much so, at times. The song "Things Were Rough" could fit in among a setlist by the Trilliums, carrying a signature old-school honky-tonk charm and vibe synonymous with Romano's recent solo albums, and takes away from Oxford Blue being a distinct record. In many ways, it melts into Romano's stetson-clad catalog.
The record does break its roots and move into new territory, however, making for some of the most memorable tracks on the album. "Coupe DeVille" and "Old Beater" bring toe-tapping choruses and slick guitar lines with a rock and roll flair, while "Bargains" is a slow, dynamic progression with a satisfying payoff, one of the finest moments on the album. With each song, regardless of style, Lefler's Neil Young-esque voice coos and croons along, tying the songs together.
Oxford Blue is a lovely surprise, and a great little release well worth investing 22 minutes into. What it may lack in real originality and innovation, it makes up for in charm, a solid list of contributors, and some great songwriting. (Independent)