June 12, 2011

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #4 :: Strand of Oaks

I try real hard not to peg musicians based on appearance, but when you meet Strand Of Oaks for the first time (aka Tim Showalter) you can’t help feel that he should maybe have a CB radio handle and/or make music that sounds like The Allman Brothers. But then he wraps you in a big bear hug and you learn that he used to be a second-grade teacher, and you realize he is a study in contrasts.

His music made my jaw drop the first time he heard it live, there in the church. It was completely unexpected. I am not savvy in the use of pedals and effects in music; as far as I am concerned, it may as well be magic. From the first song “Kill Dragon” that Tim played in the big gorgeous church, there was this polyphonic, shimmering wall of sound that he created with just him and his guitar. It sounded like a thousand pipe organs, or angels, or something extraordinary.

As I interpret it, this first song is about wrestling with talking to a God that seems to have vanished: “Lately he hasn’t been listening to me / I guess he’s a man and he’s meant to leave.” In the void he’s left, Tim traces the litany of things that have gone awry in his life (deaths, sickness) and says he is coming up with an interesting new prayer – to run away with Mary. A little surprised the walls of the church didn’t like, you know, crumble all around us.

Tim writes thoughtful, piercing songs about sleeplessness, faith, and that which we’ve lost. This music is mesmerizing.

Kill Dragon
End in Flames
The Golden Age (Beck)


If you like this music, check out Strand of Oaks’ haunting, gorgeously wrought album Pope Killdragon, and his cover of Joe Pug’s “Hymn #101.” Tim also sang on that cover of “Hard Life” with Joe Pug in this same chapel session.

ALSO: That Beck cover he did reminds me of the version that Beck himself did, also in a chapel – Union Chapel in London.


  • Study in contrasts indeed. Tim spent time with both my kids talking about music, guitars and whatever else they were interested in. Stunned an audience unfamiliar with his work with songs of depth and beauty and was generally one of the most enjoyable guys I’ve been around in along time.

    Been listening to the entire “Pope Killdragon” over and over.

    Billsville House — June 12, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

  • Man. That’s some great stuff. ‘Kill Dragon’ is really gorgeous.

    Adam — June 13, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  • [...] Strand of Oaks doesn’t have to consider all of that, though. Timothy Showalter is able to slow Beck’s lament down to lament-worthy speed, ditch the keyboards and slide guitars, and really let the sadness seep into the song. The ambiance gained by recording in a chapel doesn’t hurt either, and although his vocals come through crisply, his wandering guitar swirls with expansive reverb. The result is a faithful, but haunting, version of the song. (via I Am Fuel, You Are Friends) [...]

    Strand of Oaks Perform Beck’s “Golden Age” in a Chapel » Cover Me — June 14, 2011 @ 7:01 am

  • Does this file not open for anyone else?

    kevin — June 16, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  • Very well written, and I too, consider his music “mesmerizing.” Thank you for this.

    Krista Hensley — June 25, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

  • awesome. the song “end in flames” is one of my all-time fave by this guy. nice :D

    and thank you :D

    Thomas Bates — February 2, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  • [...] Where you can hear it: Fuel/Friends [...]

    The Complete (?) Guide to Strand of Oaks Cover Singles | 570 Mine Fire — August 15, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  • [...] Where you can hear it: Fuel/Friends [...]

    The Complete (?) Guide to Strand of Oaks’ Cover Singles | 570 Mine Fire — August 15, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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