Any new Woodsist signing is cause for inquiry, but the debut from Hurt Valley is an amber-hued slice of Cosmic Americana that’s ticking a lot of boxes over here. The album channels the windswept, sea salt sanded vision of West Coast country-psych that permeated the best private press issues. He’s finding common ground with everyone from Jim Sullivan to Rose City Band and I couldn’t be happier to have Brian contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series. Check out the story by hind how Tara Jane Oneil’s excellent debut became an illicit part of his record collection.
Brian recalls, “A friend of mine put this album on one morning. He placed it in a cheap CD player with a little flip up top and snapped the lid shut. We were making breakfast while the disc spun with a clicking plastic sound. The songs started playing in the background as we were shuffling passed one another with a pot or a pan, clanging silverware and plates together, and carrying on with making food after being up all night. Once we sat down and became quiet, the songs from that CD player filled the room and I instantly felt like I knew what I was hearing – but I didn’t quite know what it was exactly. I wondered about it a bit and asked, “Is this new?” He replied over a bit of chewing, “Something I picked up the other day.”
“We went on eating, and then cleaned up, he continues. “As we began moving on to whatever it was either of us were off to do that day, and once my friend had left the room, I grabbed the CD out of the player on my way out. I didn’t bother to get the case. I just took the CD and left with it in my pocket and said, “See ya later man, thanks!” That CD stayed with me for a long time. Who knows how long it had been by the time I was playing it one day when that same friend was over and asked, “What is this, I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere before?” I said, “Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, it’s good right, I mean, this is something you would buy from a record store, right?” He knew I was going on about something. “What?” he said cautiously. I proceeded to tell him the whole story of how I stole the album from him. I explained that he never asked about it, ever. We agreed that he probably never even remembered eating breakfast that day or buying the album in the first place. We laughed.”
On why this remains a particularly potent gem, Brian notes, “TJO wrote all of the songs and played most of the instruments, it was recorded in her apartment in New York City. The other people, and other apartments where recordings took place, sound seamlessly integrated into her sound and vision for the songs. I feel that this album must have been forged at the confluence of her previous band Rodan’s massive effort and brilliance on their only full length LP, Rusty, and her own more intimate guitar/melodica/bass/piano leaning songs. The result is a uniquely Americana, folk, post-rock hybrid, which has not yet been matched or duplicated. It is a truly great album and considering it will be twenty years old in a few months, it’s hard to believe it’s not more of a touchstone. More than anything, it sounds strikingly honest and holds up to the passage of time. She could have recorded it yesterday and it would still sound like it comes from an undefined place where it will meet you where you are, whoever you might be at the time.”
As usual I asked if it’s seeped into his own writing, which he remarked, “One could only hope.” O’Neil’s catalog is solid from front to back, but this debut is, as Brian notes, a particular gem in among her offerings. The LP is out of print, but still available if you look hard enough, but for the steadfast this is around digitally and on CD. Well worth a pickup, and while you’re at it, keep an eye out for Brian’s new LP, Glacial Pace as well.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.