Robert Oakes and Katherine Oakes (formerly Smith), the tandem behind the moniker Oakes & Smith, have a new EP slated for release on Feb. 2. Between the Earth and Sky is the second EP the couple have released in the past year, following 2015’s Evergreen. The album also follows Oakes & Smith's debut LP First Flight, which was mixed in 2013 by Grammy-winning engineer, Oz Fritz. Fritz has returned to the mixing helm for this latest effort.
Between the Earth & Sky is, like all of the band’s music, heavily influenced by the Berkshires, the sylvan Massachusetts enclave where the Oakes reside. They describe the area as “a peaceful place filled with natural and cultural beauty,” which is an apt description of the EP’s placid character.
Katherine is supremely serene at the fore of the mix, soaring about sparse folk music. Her partner weaves together the instrumentations, borrowing from a bevy of contributors that include co-producer Jemal Wade Hines, Moksha Sommer, Dan Walters, Chuck Mauk, Melissa Hyman, George Tortorelli, and Jon Anderson (of YES).
Anderson, of course, is the celebrity of the record, providing the folksy duo with immediate recognizability. The singer’s distinct, earnest tenor makes an appearance on the album’s final track, “Closer to Home.” “Coming ever closer, to the ones I love,” he sings in duet with Katherine, “and the silent solace I’ve been dreaming of.” Wistful flutes and twinkling strings accompany the singers, plodding march-like toward the “home I love.”
Tropes of love and spiritual homecomings pervade the whole of Between the Earth and Sky, evoking the bucolic stillness of a Berkshires afternoon. It unfolds at a measured pace, unrushed by urban bustle or anything else. Simply put, Between the Earth and Sky is an album for quiet times.