Zephania Ohora - This Highway
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This Highway (Self-released, 2017)

Zephania Ohora

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

Though he may have an unconventional name for a country singer, the debut from Brooklyn-based Zephaniah OHora sounds like a greatest hits package from the '60s. Merle Haggard is the most prominent influence, including "Songs My Mama Sang" in the mode of "Mama Tried" and "Sing Me Back Home." While "I Do Believe I've Had Enough" is about dissatisfaction with an unrewarding job the line "serving time making someone else a dime" seemingly alludes to Haggard's prison songs.

Some tracks are reminiscent of Willie Nelson's pre-Outlaw work, including the closing "For A Moment or Two" with the opening line "See that wall over there/It's been telling me lie after lie" which takes the opposite approach of Nelson's "Hello Walls." The tale of lost love "He Can Have Tomorrow (I'll Take Yesterday)" recalls Nelson's "I'd Trade All of My Tomorrows" and "Three Days." The haunting "I Can't Let Go (Even Though I Set You Free)" transitions from what appears to be a classic failed relationship saga ("I walk in circles every day/Wishing I could take this pain away") to a much darker murder ballad ("My love for you was in the first degree").

Other highlights are the Glen Campbell/Jim Webb fashioned "High Class City Girl From the Country" and an effectively countrified take on the pop hit "Somethin' Stupid," the lone cover which features Dori Freeman nicely mimicking Nancy Sinatra's monotone delivery in a duet with OHora.

In addition to Freeman, the support is stellar throughout with co-producers Jim Campilongo and Luca Benedetti (guitars), Jon Graboff (steel guitar), Alex Hargreaves (fiddle) and Roy Williams (piano). With "This Highway," OHora delivers strong vocals and authentic classic country tunes that could easily coexist on the AM airwaves along with those of the legends he clearly admires.

CDs by Zephania Ohora

This Highway, 2017

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