Kristofer Dommin left Los Angeles for Brisbane, Australia, getting a clean break to explore a different genre of music than his typical hard rock. He linked up with the Oztones, a trio consisting of Danny Lowrie (lead guitar), Dale Berends (upright bass) and Jot Garrott (drums) to back his foray into rockabilly, rootsy, Americana rock n’ toll on Kristofer Dommin & the Oztone’s self-titled release Kristofer Dommin & the Oztones. He describes his music as bridging “the gap between blues and country, with the words of a dark romantic poet and the attitude of an outlaw.”
The attitude starts right from the start, with the appropriately titled “Let’s Do This Thing.” It’s a rootsy, bluesy swagger driven by Garrott’s drums, with nice space and vocals that move from low and sultry to higher ranges: imagine Roy Orbison backed by a mash-up of Johnny Cash’s band and the Clash. The three chord setup is familiar, but the band then puts their own twist on the proceedings by moving away from I, IV, and V, showing off their songwriting and arranging chops. There’s a sneaky little glockenspiel part, too, and a memorable bridge. It’s a terrific opening track.
The band drops right into “Ain’t Right,” a fun rockabilly number that sounds like they set up in a classic room and knocked it out in a couple of takes. Indeed, Dommin tells us that the production was minimal, by design. They leave space in the tracks, allowing the players to play. In particular, they did not gate the drums because they wanted to capture the subtlety and texture of Garrott’s drumming. He is a star all the way through. There are great drum parts everywhere, but he really shines on “Chasing Yesterday,” “Love Doesn’t Come With Chains, and “Dead Men Walking.” Garrott is further evidence that a drum machine can take you only so far.
Everyone else in the band can play, too. Berends’ melodic bass lines snake underneath. Lowrie coaxes terrific tone from his guitars, and drops in tasty leads (“Love Doesn’t Come With Chains,” “You and I”) where appropriate. Dommin’s engaging vocals show terrific range and emotion. But the band is more than just the sum of its very strong parts. They hit their peak on the surf-rock dance “Shake.” The guitars sound great, the organ parts are cool, and the honking horns get everyone out of their seats. But it’s their work as an ensemble that makes the difference. “Shake” is a great example of how a simple song can be elevated by a great band that execute with panache, feel and fun.
The band handles the fast stuff easily (including the fast-as-you-can-go rave-up “The Train”), but they can be soulful too (“You Can’t Love”). They can even navigate both within the same song (“I Don’t Care”). Across these twelve tracks, the band puts on quite a show.
Dommin went to Australia looking for a new musical direction, and he’s found a great one with Kristofer Dommin & The Oztones. Rocking and rollicking, swaggering and swinging, this one is a ton of fun!
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