Zack Oakley Breaks New Ground on Badlands LP

By Deuce

The range of musicianship displayed on Zack Oakley’s debut album Badlands, dropping September 17, is nothing short of remarkable. He covers an immense amount of ground, from traditional rock and funkdafied numbers to others that outright defy description altogether.

Much of this effect, though by no means all of it, is produced on the guitar and attributed to Oakley himself, who’s hitting vocals and manning the electric variety of the aforementioned instrument. His solos are searing, vociferous, and altogether transformative, particularly on cuts like “Freedom”. At times the sheer magnitude of such musicianship threatens to overtake the vocals as the most compelling aspect of this and other songs.

But Oakley also manages to flip his guitars with some wah wah effects that sound so close to those on any sort of Blaxploitation flick soundtrack it’s not funny. Don’t ask how, but he’s capable of getting his guitar to grunt, squeal, and emit a deftness of sound that’s drenched in funk.

“I’m The One” is a fantastic showcase for this quality of his, particularly in about the first minute or so where it’s apparent the musician is only warming up. Granted, it’s balanced out with some heavy duty conventional rock chords until the former’s finally abandoned for a totally different groove he sticks to for most of the remainder of the tune. But those early moments are delicious, rife with wonder and possibility as the listener sits entranced, wondering in which direction he’ll possibly go next.

He reprises the funk wah wahs on “Fever” so well it’s hard to listen to without hearing any number of sounds to sample. The tune seems to come all the more harder because of this fact once it transmutes back into a metallic melee.

Still, almost no one’s heard a harmonica, of all instruments, get to singing and talking with all the verve of any sort of guitar as it does on “Mexico”. Whoever the hell was playing that needs some sort of award for straddling the spheres between blues and rock with a sheer loudness and electricity that brings out the best of both genres.

Plus the tune invokes a quirky guitar groove that actually conjures images of riding through the desert lands, in Mexico or some other country, living on the edge. That’s just what Oakley achieves on this song and this album, which you’ve got to hear to believe.   

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