Live Review: Strand Of Oaks, Philadelphia, PA, Dec. 14, 2019

Night one of Strand Of Oaks’ fifth-annual Winter Classic at Philly’s Boot & Saddle was something of a homecoming for Tim Showalter, who recently moved to Texas—and it was a most welcome one. If there was a single sentiment that prevailed, it was this: He may be an Indiana native and a Texas resident—and he may have even spent significant time in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.—but Philly is where Showalter is from as an artist, and this is his family forever.

Strand Of Oaks has always been whoever Showalter says it is—especially at the Winter Classic shows, which have been everything from solo auteur to quasi-full band to special collaborations. On this night, lap-steel journeyman Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner proved to be one of the best guests of the series, first with a solo instrumental workout that peaked with “Hava Negila,” then by adding a melancholy edge to Showalter’s bruised and brooding songs.

Highlights: “Visions,” “Forever Chords,” a cover of Songs: Ohia’s “Whip-Poor-Will” and a new song about cosmic dust and aliens listening to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after he died.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich