By Ian Bremner

Perhaps jokingly, Strand of Oaks main man Timothy Showalter said if he could do it all over, he’d name the band “King Showalter.” The name as it sits now, “Strand Of Oaks” quite literally represents the ethereal, natural acoustic vibe of Showalter’s first few records. When the 2014 record, HEAL broke through to the masses, as least in indie radio/festival circles, the album took off and seemed to completely separate itself from Showalter’s past material with it’s guitar-grit and overall volume. Ironically, the lyrical content of HEAL was the most connected to his past. As vivid and sometimes painful as it was, it connected the listener directly to Timothy Showalter, giving him a very enduring status to pair with the raucous rock n roll backdrop.

On the surface, Strand Of Oaks looks like a heavy-metal biker band, but watching Showalter perform and listening to him speak, you end up just wanting to chill out and have a few beers or listen to music with him. Somehow, the music has the same exact feel. The new record, Hard Love picks up where HEAL left off in the surging power and beautiful tones, but in no way is it simply HEAL II. Where the album most obviously differs is the pure confidence. Though similarly nostalgic to a song like Goshen 97 from HEAL, the lead single Radio Kids is the type of arena rock Showalter would not have had the confidence to venture into a few years back. Similarly unprecedented, the A side/B side transition to Hard Love is met with Cry, a slow piano ballad building directly into another album standout, Quit It.

With a clearer vision of where he wanted to go musically, Strand of Oaks went into the studio with a plan to to exude the sweat and energy of classic rock albums. Listening to those records, you can often times hear the chaos among the artists. Hard Love has done just thatA song like Rest Of It is the most fun, straightforward track on the record, but also possesses that sing-a-long, communal party-mode flavor.

Whether Timothy Showalter was joking about his band name or not, he’s proving he can be king of his own world and Strand of Oaks.

Listen to Hard Love

Rest of It official video

After you head the single version, listen to super stripped piano version of Radio Kids