Reviewed by Jonathan DeWoskin
Harry has sent me another rock album to review for y’all, but I’d consider The Last Days of Oakland (“Oakland” for brevity’s sake) more than just another rock album. This one is steeped heavily in the blues. My wife and I put the album for an afternoon relaxing outside having no idea what to expect and we were both amazed at Negrito’s vocal talent. Soulful and eclectic, Oakland has deep roots in black music across the album.
As I listened for a second and third time, I found myself often thinking of The Heavy. If you’re asking yourself “who’s The Heavy?”, they had a hit that was all over the radio several years ago. Oakland is an album that plays well for most occasions. Working Poor (Track 2) and Scary Woman (Track 3) are paced well for running and exercise. I’m writing this review on an airplane preparing a playlist for a very long drive home. Songs from this album will be making an appearance on that drive.
There’s one song in particular that grabbed my attention: In the Pines (Track 7). A Lead Belly cover, sometimes titled Where Did You Sleep Last Night, is a song I first heard on the Nirvana Unplugged album. Cobain and company did a great job covering a few different artists on that album and it introduced Lead Belly to a new generation. Others have covered this classic in the past, notably Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Pete Seeger and the Grateful Dead.
As good as Nirvana’s version was back in the 90’s, Negrito’s haunting and updated rendition of Pines adds a touch of gospel and a bridge that is absolutely unforgettable. Calling this version of In the Pines a cover song downplays its total reinvention and social commentary. Were he still living, Huddie Ledbetter would be proud.
This album doesn’t deserve a place in your collection. It commands one. Check it out here on YouTube.