Band: DocFell & Co; John Fell: vocals, songwriter and rhythm guitar; Kyle Brown: lead guitar; Joe Sloan: drums and percussion; Adam Miller: cello and harmonica; Eddie Dickerson: fiddle, cello and mandolin; and Geoff Queen: pedal steel guitar
Album: ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma;’ Recorded at Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, Texas; produced by David Percefull; engineered by Adam Odor
Embracing classic life values that all Americans can relate to and understand is a deep message that not many musicians infuse into their work. But country band Doc Fell & Co. is powerfully embodying that theme in their newly released album, ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma.’ Steeped in elements of traditional country, Americana, gospel funk and folk-rock, the record is a turning point in the group’s catalog. Its songs’ lyrics, which were written by singer and rhythm guitarist, John Fell, unabashedly confront death and the afterlife, as well as the future of careers and romantic relationships, and are powerfully driven by equally raw and tough instrumentation.
‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma’ opens with the dark and brooding entry, ‘Peace Maker,’ which enthrallingly possesses an undercurrent of loss. Fell thoughtfully croons how he and other men fight to find peace, and think they could win, but ultimately aren’t able to achieve their goals. He also grimly notes that he won’t offer peace, pity or mercy to anyone who doesn’t seek to protect life through gritty vocals that are powerfully backed by gruff guitar riffs.
DocFell & Co’s current album then delves into its red dirt sophomore song, ‘End of the Line,’ which was written in honor of truck drivers. The frontman has a more traditional country twang in his vocals on the ode to who he considers to be the unsung heroes of the highway. He longingly notes that drivers have become lonesome on the highway, especially when they consider the course of their lives as they travel miles across the U.S. for work, and haven’t called a place home in a long time. The tune, which is the perfect anthem for country life across America, truly makes people ponder the direction that their existence is taking, as they watch the world continuously passing them by as they set out for work.
The halfway point of ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma’ is the fifth entry, ‘A Different Drum,’ which is a fiddle-heavy ode to the title state. While it isn’t the best song on the record, the singer’s rock and country-infused vocals, as well as the enticing, up-tempo instrumentation, proves the band’s musical versatility.
‘A Different Drum’ then transitions into the album’s sixth soulful track, ‘In Your Eyes.’ Its country-infused lyrics and instrumentation encourage its listeners to contemplate their life’s journey, and search for their sense of purpose. While Fell admits that he doesn’t know if he can ever find the religion and spirituality that he seeks, he does see heaven in the eyes of the woman he loves.
The penultimate tune on ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma’ is the spiritually infused ‘Beulah Land.’ The group’s frontman offers a hopeful note in the modern day hymn, in which he claims that as he search for a way to set his troubles free, he’ll stand and strongly march through heaven’s gates. The entry features the band’s signature up-tempo, Americana-country twang in its singer’s vocals and its back-up musicians’ instrumentation.
The country band’s latest record winds down with its laid-back but meaningful song, ‘Home On the Hill,’ during which Fell admits that he’s tired of traveling. Since he’s low on money, he also reveals that he’s contemplating heading home, even though he previously swore he would never give up on his dreams of traveling. The singer provides inspiration in the fact that he’s willing to turn his life around for the woman he loves, even if that means overcoming his pride. Noting that they’re still rich in love, even though they haven’t fully achieved their professional dreams, offers a source of inspiration for the group’s listeners.
Embodying classic life values that all Americans can relate to and understand is a deep message that not many musicians take on in their work. But DocFell & Co is powerfully embodying that ideal in ‘Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma.’ The album is a turning point in the country group’s catalog; its distinct songs are driven by not only equally emotional and gritty vocals and instrumentation, but also raw passion that allow listeners to relate to Fell and his bandmates’ personal journeys, during which they experience struggles, triumphs, anger and love.