Oxbow’s Thin Black Duke is an album that was released a few months ago by the band Oxbow.
After what some would consider a lengthy period between albums, it is nice to hear some new music from Oxbow. However, was it worth the wait?
There’s a strong interplay between angular guitar work and brass / orchestral instrumentation with a steady, tight rhythm section keeping everything anchored with a strong foundation. Despite having a somewhat lively sound, most of the songs exhibit a tender, almost quiet nature.
In addition to the strong interplay, the brass / orchestral instrumentation accentuates various moments by building on the existing atmosphere, such as the increasing cacophony toward the end “Letter of Note” accompanied by Eugene S. Robinson going from gentle vocal notes to a genuinely harsh, abrasive scream, and the orchestration following the melody of “Ecce Homo”, sometimes rising above and falling below it, with a brief use of brass to punctuate part of the rhythm.
Thankfully this, in combination with the rest of the instrumentation works well as there’s enough breathing space within each song to ensure that they do not feel flat.
The lyrics seem to express something akin to a story, making reference to a character, as well as a place multiple times throughout, as well as including references to literature. Eugene S. Robinson delivers them flawlessly. He elongates and shortens when required, moves between sounding wounded and something akin to confident, seemingly building on the established atmosphere and mood for any given part rather than trying to bring about change.
If there’s anything that Thin Black Duke does well, it shows that Oxbow take their craft seriously. It is a strong record, with all of its elements working very well with each other. Whilst it is a shame that it took as long as it did to get Thin Black Duke released, it was worth the wait.