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Before even hearing a lick of his music, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to single out Tim Showalter as some sort of rock and roll warrior just by looking at him (as self-described on “Heal”): long black hair and beard, black jeans, black boots, smoking a cigarette with headphones on. In conversation and in person, Showalter is as humble, excitable, and cordial as you could hope to find in a kindred music-obsessed spirit. All of these facets of him ring out like relentless clarion calls all over Strand of Oaks’ masterful, anguished, and absolutely triumphant 2014 album, Heal. Not only was Heal both my favorite and most-listened-to record of the past year, it also fueled me with all the firepower and guts I needed to chase my own breakthroughs on the other side of lingering heartache.
Watching Strand of Oaks play these songs live, as they did with sweat-soaked zeal and hearts wide open at Russian Recording in Bloomington later the night of this session in August and, more recently, to a packed house at this same Hi-Fi in Indianapolis in January, is akin to getting swept away in a force of nature with the power to restore than destroy. Each show was an obviously special homecoming for the Philadelphia-based native Hoosier (see: “Goshen ‘97” and the opening line of “JM” for Indiana shout-outs). When he sings, “You gotta heal,” at the climax of the title track, it serves as both a command to himself and a generous plea to the listener no matter the cause of the individual wounds. It’s that same redemptive spirit that allows “Shut In” to break free and soar like it’s chasing the horizon down some hopeful thunder road. Some truly hard knocks hit Showalter during the writing and recording of these songs, and those brutal blows inform every second you hear upon dropping the needle in the grooves of Heal’s wax or simply pushing play. Fortunately, by making these very songs in all their guitar-frenzy, deeply scarred, and music-worshipping glory, Showalter paints us all up like warriors, too, and reminds us yet again that we were born to run.
Filmed & Edited by Doug Fellegy / Nicole Conflenti
Recorded & Mixed by Jeff DuPont
Written by Justin Wesley