September sky


Al Oakes is the stuff of local legend. A founding member of the Volebeats, Al left the band about a decade ago and has been pretty much a musical recluse ever since – until now. For this recording, his brother Brian, another ex-Volebeat, and John Nash – who actually just joined the Voles – have ventured into the musical realm of Al Oakes, creating the various pastoral Western vistas, country loneliness and cracked spaciness that frame his melancholy songs of longing. Besides the alienation of failed relationships, Oakes looks to the aliens of the stars, mixing allusions to outer space with more down-to-earth Midwestern imagery. Songs like the reverberating "Space Lake" and the sinuous "Martian Twilight" cast a vaguely psychedelic sheen on Oakes’ perspectives. A couple of songs share similar structures, and the autumnal imagery lends a song-cyclical feel to the record. The arrangements by Brian and Nash impress with their simplicity, recalling the production values and odd moments that David Gilmour brought to Syd Barrett records.

September Sky is a spare yet majestic achievement – hopefully Al Oakes, with his A.N.B. partners, will get out a little more often.

Greg Baise writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.