Zephaniah OHora Delivers Again with “Black & Blue”

photo: Kevin Smith

Zephaniah OHora’s debut album This Highway from 2017 was so damn good, and so perfectly encapsulating and reverential to the classic era of country, it was downright eerie, and you worried he would never be able to match or surpass that level of country music perfection again. I mean, how could you? It had to be all uphill from there. Switching producers between his freshman and sophomore albums when he went with Neal Casal for new the one called Listening to the Music out August 28th also seemed like a risk.

But man does this Brooklyn-based throwback country crooner and songwriter just continue to deliver. Most of our worries were put to bed when we heard the first song from the new record, the Countrypolitan-feeling “All American Singer.” Now Zeph moves to a slightly different era on the country music timeline, yet still pulls off the feat of sounding more like Merle Haggard than Merle Haggard on the second track released from the record, “Black & Blue.”

Written right after Zephaniah finished his debut record, it once again proves that a guy from New York can do country music better than most. “People think you have to be from Texas or Nashville to play this music,” says Zephaniah OHora. “But that’s not the way I see it. Country’s all about being true to yourself and telling honest, authentic stories. You can do that anywhere.”

The way the double guitars harmonize with each other and emphasize the melody, and the songwriting finds that traditional feel, Zephaniah doesn’t even need to rhyme every verse to get you to feeling right.

Listening to the Music was recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn and is dedicated to Neal Casal who passed away in August of 2019. Casal might be best known as the guitarist for The Cardinals from 2005 to 2009 when he put himself on the national map. From there he would collaborate with a host of who’s whos in alt-country and rock, including Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hard Working Americans, The Skiffle Players, GospelbeacH, Jaime Wyatt, Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead, and Shooter Jennings. Casal also released 12 solo albums of his own.

“My hope is that this recording shines a light on the unique gift Neal had,” says OHora. “Whether he was on stage in front of thousands or in a small recording studio with friends, Neal connected with people through music in a profound and lasting way. His legacy serves as a reminder of just how precious a commodity music is for humankind. I’m thankful I got to experience the growth that comes with working with someone who embodied that.”

Listening To The Music in now available for pre-order on BandCamp where it will be available early.

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