Heavily engrossed within the Philadelphia music scene, Karl Blau (vocals), Heyward Howkins (vocals, guitar), and Chet Delcampo (vocals, guitar, bass, keys) have come together to create the ever enchanting Opal Eskar. The band released an one-off single “Sunlight Is Breakin’ Out” before adding two more members of the Philly fabric: Charlie Hall and Robbie Bennett of The War on Drugs. Together, Opal Eskar are about to release their debut EP on May 19 via Spiral Valley Records.
Having dropped the lead single “And Yet Love Rules,” Opal Eskar are back to provide another taste of what’s to come on the EP with their latest single “The Woodsman.” “As tough and debilitating as it may be at times, especially when there are hard things to share, ‘The Woodsman’ is about how having an honest relationship makes for a deeper relationship,” says Blau.
The sentiment surrounding tracks such as “The Woodsman” permeates the entire EP — the blissful sound of a group of musicians with their own thing going on, but whose mutual respect for each other’s work inspires a creative curiosity that makes onto the analog recordings.
Blau met Howkins and Delcampo after relocating to Philly following a highly prolific period in the Olympia, Washington area where he released dozens of records and helped nurture the scene that brought the K Records label and influential artists such as Laura Veirs, The Microphones, and Earth — many of which Blau recorded and performed with — to prominence.
More recently, Veirs, along with My Morning Jacket front man Jim James, appeared with Blau on a cover of Link Wray’s ten-minute epic “Fallin’ Rain,” a cut from Introducing Karl Blau, a covers collection of overlooked country songs by Blau, released by legendary UK record label Bella Union.
Delcampo has two earlier album releases to his name, as well as another pair as Hong Kong Stingray. His list of current and former collaborators is long, including Kid Congo Powers, Joel RL Phelps, and Dave Lovering of Pixies. Last year he released a single with Howkins as Later Fortune.
Howkins has released two full-length albums of his own, and is a founding member of the choral group The Silver Ages with members of Dr. Dog and The War on Drugs, the Grammy®-winning rock band that features Hall on drums and Bennett on keys, the same instruments they contribute to Opal Eskar.
Like Howkins and Delcampo’s Later Fortune project, which covered David Bowie’s soul-noir classic “Win” (from the Young Americans album, which was recorded in Philly), Opal Eskar cannot help but be influenced by the man.
Delcampo says, “A few years after Bowie’s death, I was reflecting upon his methodology of assembling an interesting cast of characters into the right room at the right time. Tony Visconti, Brian Eno, Nile Rodgers, Mick Ronson, and many others.”
Inspired to assemble his own group of collaborators this way, Delcampo reached out to Blau (whose work he had long admired) and Howkins brought Hall and Bennett to the band.
Photo Courtesy: Mecky Elvita Madl