Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma: Doc Fell & Co.
Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma is the third studio album by the Americana band Doc Fell & Co. and was released on May 4th. The album was produced, engineered and mixed by David Percefull at the infamous Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, Texas. It was mastered by Adam J. Odor. There are quite a few exceptional musicians playing on the album including: John Fell - Lead vocals, rhythm guitar, Kyle Brown - Lead guitar, Joe Sloan - Drums, percussion, Adam Miller - Cello, Harmonica, Eddie Dickerson - ﬁddle, cello, mandolin, Geoﬀ Queen - pedal steel guitar, J. Meridian - backing vocals, and David Percefull - baritone, electric and bass guitars, electric sitar, keyboards.
The bands bio description: "Deep in the heart of Cherokee Country, in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, the small town of Tahlequah, Oklahoma is giving rise to a dynamic and eclectic cure for the common country music rut. Led by Dr. John Fell (a general practitioner by day and manically expressive singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist by night). DocFell&Co has been kickin’ the dust up around these parts since the early 2010s, channeling the masters (Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash) to create a fusion of traditional country, hillbilly, bluegrass, Americana, red dirt, folk and gospel funk."
“The concept behind the album became songs inspired by the afterlife. I had written 'Mean Marie' and 'Peace Maker' during funerals. Going through my catalog I found other songs that had similar themes,” Said John Fell. “ 'End of the Line' seems obvious, 'Molly Field Cemetery' is about a cemetery, “Slim Says' referencing the death of radio and so on. The title 'Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma' evolved embracing this idea but also left open the ability to slide in our track 'A Different Drum' which is more about our home state.”
The album is full of story-telling songs that flow through many different sounds, encompassing traditional country, Americana, a little rock and roll and a lot of soul. Fell's voice has a tone and timbre reminiscent of old school traditional country artists, it's clear and genuine and flows well through the lyrics.
The album opens with a song called 'Peace Maker”, the ballad of Wyatt Earp, a slow and steady country tune that tells the story about the lawman in the wild west. Fell's voice dips into some deep sounds right along with the music as he weaves the tale. Fell wrote the song at a graveside funeral which was held between a highway and a railroad track, and the tune definitely has a dark undertone.
“End of the Line” comes next and this one is more upbeat, with a rhythm that makes you want to tap your foot along. It has a slight honky tonk vibe to it. It tells the tale of the unsung hero's of the highway, a ballad for the truck drivers. The steel guitar is fantastic and brings extra depth to this tune.
“Slim Says” comes rolling in hard and heavy next, it has a bit of an angry vibe in there as Fell tells it like it is about the current state of the music industry and his frustrations with it. This one leans more towards rock and roll, but still maintains that country undertone woven into it. I imagine this one to be a really interactive song during live shows, it makes you want to move and has great lyrics to sing along to. Fell said it was originally inspired by his autistic son who they have nicknamed Slim.
The fourth song in the album is called “Tough”, a no holds barred song about what it means to be a man, inspired by Fell's papa Fred. This fast paced song is layered with some great instrumentals and Fell adds a little more attitude with his vocals.
“A Different Drum” quickens the pace even more, a song all about Oklahoma. It has a definite rock-a-billy vibe, and the sizzling fiddle and tasty guitar solos make it smoke. It's loaded with references and themes to different places and things native to our great state. It definitely is a song that follows the beat of a different drum compared to the rest of the album and it shakes things up just enough, while still offering a cohesive feel.
“In Your Eyes” slows us back down with a good ol' love song inspired by a friend of Fell's who wasn't sure he'd ever find love or Jesus. This song falls more into the Americana feel of things. It's sure to be a hit with the two steppers on the dance floor.
“Mean Marie” picks back up that rock-a-billy rockin' speed. It's a fun song about a wicked woman inspired by the funeral of Fell's wife's grandmother. This sweet granny was nicknamed Mean Marie by her husband who had all the grandkids convinced when they were young that she was really an evil woman. This song paints a great picture of a woman who “even the devil knows to leave her be”.
The next song goes back into that old school traditional country sound, “Three Chords” is a tribute to Willie Nelson, full of great references to the legend, his songs and life. Fell's voice deepens just enough on this tune to give it that good ol' outlaw country sound. The diversity of Fell's voice and the way he plays with it depending on the tune adds some real depth and interest to the album overall.
“Molly Field Cemetery” starts out bold and has an almost haunting quality. It has that dark undertone once again, like 'Peace Maker'. It's a song about a local cemetery and being frozen to death in February. Fell said the song evolved into being about how he writes music to deal with the pain and suffering in his life, and this definitely comes through in the lyrics and music.
“Beulah Land” breaks us into a rocking tune with a tinge of the blues. It was written specifically for this album as the band decided to embrace the theme of death and the afterlife. It's structured around a hymn Fell heard growing up in the Baptist Church, which I think is what gives it an almost soulful quality. Beulah land is the place where the pilgrims said that we go to in the afterlife. It's a toe tapping, revival quality song for sure.
The album wraps up with “Home on the Hill”, which is a remix from the band's previous album. It was written about a flood that occurred along the river in Fell's town. It slows us down just a bit and again shows off the Americana/Folksy sound, but it's also reminiscent of tunes from around the 70's era. It features the lovely backing vocals of J. Meridian which adds a softer quality to this tune. It's the perfect song to end out on.
Overall this album takes you on a musical journey that is worth it's entertainment. It offers a range of sounds and feelings and doesn't fit into any one concrete mold. Diverse and layered with both sounds and meanings, it's an album for those that like to shake things up and not stick to the status quo. Be sure to go check it out!
You can find the album and the band on their website at www.docfellmusic.com.