The music of Jamie Oakes is soul music for the mind. Spawned from the blues, raised by folk and honed by rock, country and R & B, Oakes’ sound is as much about earthbound existence as it is about spiritual enrichment.
A singer, a guitarist, a songwriter and a bandleader, Oakes’ talents continue to evolve almost as quickly as his reputation. After a premature attempt at rock and roll stardom in the eighties with his original band Daba Rojaba, Oakes stepped back and began to refine his sound and style in the often-unforgiving “chicken wing” circuit around his native Ontario.
With his emotive voice, his ethereal guitar work and his natural musicality, it wasn’t long before Oakes’ talents became noticed. Studio session work for film, television and commercials began to fill out his schedule, giving his artistry an added cinematic scope.
In 1998, Oakes quietly released his solo debut CD Shadows in Dreams. Produced by longtime collaborator and bass player Paul Intson (best known for soundtrack work on such films as Girl Interrupted, Kama Sutra and The Sweet Hereafter), the breadth and depth of the album’s sound, songs and performances enticed all that experienced them.
Despite its “independent” status, the tunes that made up Shadows in Dreams transcended and would be utilized to great effect in an episode of the hit television drama Queer As Folk, in the Touchstone Pictures film The Perfect Son and in the documentary The Last Stand (The Struggle for Ballona Wetlands) which also featured music by Joe Walsh, Kenny Loggins and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell.
Four years after its release, Shadows in Dreams continues to find a new audience proven by Sleeman Breweries use of the track “Man in the Sky” in its current “label-free” radio advertising campaign.
The strength of Oakes’ musicianship has not gone unnoticed by his peers either. Tom Cochrane, Holly Cole, Marc Jordan, Amy Sky and Rob Lamothe regularly call upon this multi-talented artist to fill out their own sounds while exposing Oakes’ gifts across Canada, in Europe and as far away as Japan.
Yamaha Canada has also acknowledged Oakes’ considerable abilities by inviting him to join Randy Bachman, Rik Emmett and Jason McCoy among others as one of only a handful of guitarists nation wide to be officially endorsed by the legendary company.
Still it is Oakes’ own muse that remains his driving force. His recently released sophomore effort Eloquence lives up to its title while proving that his debut was not a case of beginners’ luck. Reunited with Intson, and supported by longtime timekeeper Dan Lockwood (Stompin’ Tom Connors, Carlos del Junco),Eloquence consists of eleven stellar, self-penned tracks which further emphasize Oakes’ often revealing style of songwriting, his spiritually charged vocals and the intimate musical interplay of the dynamic shared by this seasoned trio.
Selections like elegantly romantic R&B of “Love & Grace,” the jazz-tinged feel of “Moon on A String,” the folk-rock of the self-descriptive “Dylan Song” and the rural waltz of “Far & Away” prove that Oakes’ creative scope is only exceeded by his ability to transcend narrow musical categorizations.
Eloquence is not only the title of Jamie Oakes’ latest masterpiece; it is also an apt description of his approach to just about everything he does.