You can argue the merits of a country singer/songwriter/performer being based in Brooklyn, New York, but I personally find it irrelevant. What counts – simply put – is the soul, feel and heart that goes into the songs; geography be damned. So what you hear and experience with This Highway, the debut album from Zephaniah Ohora, will most likely catapult your imagination to long dusty highways, sprawling fields and near-empty bars of drunkenness and solitude. This is as pure country as country gets. You could guess that perhaps Mr. Ohora’s influences range from the likes of Merle Haggard, Red Sovine and Don Williams but his sound is as much his own as his message is universal.
“Way Down In My Soul” is a perfect example; the “classic” nature and feel of an older country sound is personified by the pedal steel runs, the soft tempo, the rich background harmonies and the longing of love lost – it’s all there in the words (“…she’s a mystic stream in a poet’s gold…”); “I Do Believe I’ve Had Enough” has that honky-tonk vibe, complete with the piano and the narrative of weariness and “Take Your Love Out Of Town” has a touch of familiarity (the rhythm and feel reminds me a bit of “Lyin’ Eyes”!), but has a sweet, memorable melody and essence that makes this one of my favorite cuts from the album. “I Can’t Let Go (Even Though I Set You Free)” walked right out of Nashville, circa 1962, with its fiddle and pedal steel opening – a slow, sad dance that reminds me of Ray Price or Bill Anderson; “She’s Leaving In The Morning” is just pure heartbreak and “For A Moment Or Two” closes the collection in a quiet, reflective manner.
All the sweetness, pain and purity that I look for in “country” is here. Mr. Ohora knows how to execute and deliver that feeling; that sound. The beauty of this style of music is timeless and for a debut effort, Zephaniah Ohora has created an instant country classic for these modern times.
This Highway will be released on Friday, May 26th