Dust Bowl Americana storytellers Doc Fell & Co. third studio album, ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma’ on May 4. Steeped in elements of traditional country, gospel funk and folk-rock, this release is a turning point in the band’s catalog - a master class in songwriting that confronts death and the afterlife bookended with rawhide-tough guitar licks, the lush ambience of pedal steel and frontman John Fell’s gritty vocals.
Recorded at the illustrious Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, Texas, ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma’ was produced by David Percefull and engineered by Adam Odor and features eleven original tracks (all written by Fell). “The end of the line” provides the backdrop for the album as Fell’s evocative lyrics are told through the prism of his home state of Oklahoma.
“Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma is a journey down a dead end street,” explains Fell. “The concept behind the album became songs inspired by the afterlife. I had written two of the album’s tracks during funerals. Going through my catalog, I found other songs that had similar themes. The title evolved from embracing this idea but also left open the ability to slide in our track “A Different Drum” which is more about our home state.”
Album opener “Peace Maker (The Ballad Of Wyatt Earp)” instantly takes on eternal rest and possesses an undercurrent of loss as Fell thoughtfully croons “You could fill a graveyard with the lives of men who drew their pistols and thought they could win." “End of the Line” is a red dirt ditty written in honor of truck drivers (the unsung hero’s of the highway) while roots rocker “Slim Says” is Fell’s personal statement on the “death” of radio and overall state of the music industry. “Tough” and “A Different Drum” are lilting, fiddle-heavy odes to Fell’s papa Fred and Oklahoma, respectively.
The blues-infused “Mean Marie” is easily the centerpiece of ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma.’ Drawing inspiration from a true story told at the funeral of Fell’s wife’s grandmother. Click here to give it a listen. The album ends on a spiritual, hopeful note with “Beulah Land,” a modern day hymn based on the concept of the original hymn with the same name.
Formed in 2011, Doc Fell & Co. features John Fell (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Kyle Brown (lead guitar), Joe Sloan (drums, percussion), Adam Miller (cello, harmonica), Eddie Dickerson (fiddle, cello, mandolin) and Geoff Queen (pedal steel guitar). For this release, J. Meridian lended help on backing vocals and Percefull added baritone, electric/bass guitars, electric sitar and keyboards.