Hailing right outside Philadelphia, Raphael Cutrufello, alongside his folk outfit known as Hezekiah Jones, is releasing their newest full-length album, “In Loving Memory of Oosi Lockjaw” this month. I’ll be the first to admit that my reach of folk music, especially in the 21st century is fairly slim, but Cutrufello’s vocals are far too cunning to let an underground artist like this slide. Hezekiah Jones fit the standard paradigm for a modern folk band. However, under the Americana-drenched surface is an extremely coherent and enthralling storyline throughout “In Loving Memory of Oosi Lockjaw.” The album opens with a sloppy, lo-fi drum fill which is later elegantly interrupted by a series of strings, and eventually Cutrufello coming with his bellowing vocals that could soothe a lion to rest.
Cutrufello began recording as Hezekiah Jones in 2006 with several other members known as “the Family Jones,” and have released a fair amount of material including (now) three full-lengths and two EPs. According to their biography on their website, Raphael had originally started writing soundtracks to non-existent science fiction films back when he was in middle school, and he’s even “written about everything from the inability to grow a proper beard to letters from 30 years in the future, to psychic mobility, or the lack thereof.” Cutrufello alone plays a large handful of instruments, including, but certainly not limited to: acoustic guitar, melodica, pots, pans, kazoo, xylophone, and even toy piano. The amount of people who have helped performed on stage as a part of the Hezekiah Jones band is remarkable as well, all helping to form the various “Jones” aliases.
It’s easy to hear that a lot of effort, people and instruments went into making this album. Interestingly enough, apparently this album is the first time that all of Hezekiah Jones were incorporated with the recording process. Prior to this, the albums were recorded layer by layer “on outdated equipment in bedrooms and basements in Philadelphia.” The album itself is extremely tight-sounding, and although at times the strings and harmonies seem a little corny, it rarely ceases to lose its genuine soul. I find myself easily being able to envision a simpler time while listening to each track: a warm cup of coffee in hand, a lovely woman by my side, and a beautiful landscape that seems to move at a snail’s pace compared to the modern day city life. My personal favorite from this album is “Borrowed Heart,” a cleverly thrown together duet about love and the concerns of it. The acoustic guitar sewn throughout the entirety of the album creates an extremely wholesome feel that I find more appealing than the flipside on the album, an Americana-tuned electric guitar. Though the electric guitar seems a little more apparent on the album than the acoustic, instruments like the trombone, banjo, vibraphone, and the accordion all contribute to a very compelling cadence, restated throughout the entirety of the album.
Overall, this album provides for pretty impressive modern folk that is extremely accessible for casual listeners. As mentioned previously, I found myself finding the Americana influences to be rather bland and dry. However, I know this is a lot of people’s cup of tea, so clearly they are doing something well. Alongside this, the album art could be better, but this is a completely personal opinion – it portrays the album’s concept quite well. However, the art style is a little unappealing to me. With these minor qualms aside, I would still recommend this album to anyone who is relatively into indie or folk in this day and age.
The discography of Cutrufello, including all of his recordings with Hezekiah Jones, are available from Yerdberd Records and they are also hosted by Cutrufello on his Bandcamp account. While he is not currently touring in support of “Oosi Lockjaw,” the band will be playing a series of one-off shows in the Greater Philadelphia Area late 2015.
Rating: 5.7 / 10
Recommended if You Like: Good Old War, Tigers on Trains, Travel by Sea
Zach Ritz is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at ZR812833@wcupa.edu.