Morgan O’Kane “Pendulum”
It’s impossible to listen to the latest album from West Virginian Morgan O’Kane without thinking of Malcolm Holcombe. Yes, Morgan plays banjo rather than guitar, and yes he plays it brilliantly, a word that’s never likely to be used of Holcombe’s efforts.
But beyond these superficial differences much is the same. O’Kane’s vocal is just as raw and elemental and both it and his music come from a dark place deep in the backwoods, a place where the sun barely if ever penetrates and strange and disturbing things flit at the corners of vision. Sound familiar?
This isn’t a problem of course; Holcombe is a titan and O’Kane bids fair to join him, and you can never have too many titans. He’s fast, he’s furious, he’s steeped in the tradition but very much his own man, as comfortable with the raw love of “Turkish Canal” as the man driven to murder in “Pendulum” and the lightspeed workout “Gold.” His backing musicians include sometime Carolina Chocolate Drop Lelya McCalla on cello and players of both spoons and flugelhorn as well as the more expected fiddler and guitarist but its O’Kane’s banjo and vocal that dominate what is an intense and superb set.