In the spring of 2014 John Oates released his most acclaimed solo effort to date, the three-disc Good Road to Follow, a loosely-themed collection born of the artist’s passionate dedication to both American roots music and the various roads he’s followed in his life, both literally and figuratively. It’s available in the Rock Cellar Store, so if you haven’t picked up a copy yet click here!
Now comes a cinematic companion piece of sorts, an insightful, intimate and adventurous musical revue, Another Good Road.
Directed by Sean Hagwell, the docu-concert immediately glides the viewer into the singer/songwriter’s private universe, in this case his deeply green and wooded ranch tucked away in the mythical mountainous enclave of Woody Creek, Colorado.
Hearing the engaged and approachable Oates talk about his former neighbor, famed “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson as he grabs a booth in the local tavern, it’s clear that the artist has lived a rich and colorful life beyond the boundaries of his well known and enduring career alongside Daryl Hall.
As Oates shared with us, “Daryl and I, while most familiar to people as a duo, have always lived our own lives. I think, ironically, that’s what helped keep our bond so strong this many years. The fact that we respect each other’s personal lives and that we are so different as people. That said, whenever we got together to make music, that became our primary focus.”
In Another Good Road, as soon as he describes the influences that shaped his young musical mind in the 1960s, the rich stew of street corner soul, r&b, folk and blues, the music then kicks in with the coy and catchy, top-down ode to the road, Let’s Drive.
Shot live with no retakes or pick-ups on a funky Nashville soundstage warmly adorned with colorful quilts, bronze and teal-colored curtains and a vintage crystal chandelier, Oates and company’s chemistry is in full bloom from the outset, presenting a clinic in both the mystery and mastery of classic American musical forms. This is real music made by real musicians in real time.
The live aspect was important to Oates. “Performing these songs with a live band was the next logical step on the ‘Good Road to Follow’ project. It’s like looking into the review mirror at the original recordings and flashing on the high beams into the future. Doing it all in real time gave it that edge and rush that can only happen when the light turns green and you smash the pedal to the floor.”
Splitting his time these days between Colorado and Music City, Oates has become embedded in the Southern scene and the quality of his music over the years has attracted some of the area’s most gifted players, along with some stalwart out-of-town guests.
For Another Good Road the band includes Shane Theriot on guitar, Steve Mackey on bass, Russ Pahl on pedal steel, Wendy Moten and Bekka Bramlett on background vocals, Kevin McKendree on keyboards and Johnny Richardson on Drums.
“I’ve had the honor and pleasure of performing and recording with all of the players on the video over the past few years,” Oates shared. “I trust their instincts, respect their musicianship and count on them as friends and professionals.”
Oates himself alternates between acoustic and electric guitars, and his picking and playing is as supple and intuitive as ever. This is someone after all that developed his chops by sitting at the feet of seminal masters like Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt while growing up in Philadelphia. Once a wide-eyed apprentice, he has now become the veteran torchbearer along with remaining our firsthand connection to the original sources.
His expressive voice still delivers the soulfulness that made him a household name, yet it’s now tinged with a sweetly honeyed patina that, with lilting and emotional precision, continually evokes the late soul legend, Curtis Mayfield.
And Hagwell’s cameras deftly capture the immediacy in all its bluesy, rootsy, gospel-glazed glory. This is John Oates live, up close and without a net, and the effect is that of an intensely personal one-on-one concert for the viewer.
Perhaps the true artistic triumph of the captured performances is that again, it proves that Oates is not just embracing the music that inspired him, but also nurturing it, developing it, and honing it with a modern and relevant edge. All the young, Americana revivalist musicians today can learn a ton here.
Another Good Road is the next stop on a musical journey John Oates started more than 50 years ago; a compelling sonic and visual marker along on his ever-expanding highway.
As he told us, “The whole concept of roads and movement and travel has always factored really heavy in my life. That’s another reason why wanted to do this video. I didn’t think the concept was finished with just the CD, Good Road to Follow. I wanted it to continue on in my work given how profound this whole sense of movement has been in my life and my career.”
Given the appreciation Oates has for the many roads and landmarks in his life, we asked him for 10 of his most memorable musical spots across the map.
- 1. The Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York
“The Apollo is of course is one of the most famous theaters in the world. For me there are many special memories here including the time Daryl and I saw the Temptations there in 1967 right after we had first met. Little did we know that almost 20 years later we’d be back there performing with those guys on that same stage, which remains one of the highlights of our career.”
- 2. Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville Pennsylvania
“I started attending this festival right after it started little more than 50 years ago. I saw so many legendary performers there, everybody from Pete Seeger to the Weavers, and it was very important in my development as a musician. I also became part of the Philadelphia folk community back then, and I still consider myself part of that amazing scene.”
- 3. The Uptown Theater in Philadelphia
“This is where I saw all of the R&B and soul legends growing up in Philadelphia. Smokey Robinson, James Brown, the Temptations and so many others. It’s probably the most important venue for both Daryl and me in Philadelphia. It’s also were Daryl’s early group the Temptones won a battle of the bands and earned a recording contract. Even though it’s not open today, thankfully the building is still there.”
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