Thursday, August 17, 2023 in Tuft Theater
With harmonies derived only from the genetic intricacies of a brother-sister duo, Zak and Lena Kendall have evolved from homespun, family-oriented folk music to deliver roots-revival styled sophistication for a hyper-conscious generation. The Kendalls, beloved within their quickly expanding fandom as GoldenOak, were raised in part by the western Maine landscape.
GoldenOak began as two children playing around backyard bonfires and was more firmly established with their 2016 debut, Pleasant St. In response to their coming-of-age chronicle, Dispatch Magazine coined the duo “one of Portland’s most important upcoming bands.” As purveyors of age-old tradition sharing contemporary messaging, the pair has landed spots on stage with Lady Lamb, The Dustbowl Revival, The Ghost of Paul Revere, and The Mallett Brothers Band.
Following their most recent project, Foxgloves—named ‘EP of the year’ by the Portland Music Awards—their sophomore full-length, Room to Grow is GoldenOak’s most cohesive collection yet.
Zak and Lena recorded the album at Monico Studios—a repurposed barn situated between rolling farmland outside of Portland. GoldenOak began wrapping up sessions the week Maine saw its first case of novel coronavirus. They did not return to the studio until June to add vocal overdubs, leaving several weeks for contemplation.
The product is an inclusive call to action. Putting fears and facts to song, rather than tucked away in private corners of academia, provides greater accessibility to the public, those more vulnerable to the implications. Engineered by Ryan Ordway and Dan Capaldi, mixed by Ordway and Sam McArthur, and mastered by Adam Ayan, GoldenOak’s second studio album is a kinetic tribute to the untamed nature of climate change.
Bassist Mike Knowles and drummer Jackson Cromwell add levity to Zak’s guitar and Lena’s clarinet. The orchestral set paints an ethereal portrait of nature’s beauty, offsetting the impending doom behind their lyrical findings.
Lena’s brazen vocal offerings from “Little Light ” upend the ‘Doom’s Day’ darkness of the album, alleviating the defeatism that threads throughout the diagnostic tracklist. Zak and Lena sat down on the last night of the project to pen one of the few songs they co-wrote on the album. Dan Capaldi’s chugging percussion suggests the journey is just beginning, while Christian Bertelsen’s bright trumpet contribution celebrates the distance covered and hope ahead.