Conny Ochs - Black HappyIf you know of Conny Ochs, it will probably be from his work with Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, ex-vocalist of doom legends The Obsessed and St Vitus. The unlikely pairing of the young german Ochs and L.A. rock veteran Weinrich have several releases under their collective belts of acoustic rock music. Stripped back to just their voices and guitars, it is a kind of dusty outlaw blues.

This is Ochs second solo release away from his metal mentor but “Black Happy” still very much has traces of the metal sound, if not lyrically, then certainly in the doomy key much of Ochs guitar playing. The purity of the unadorned vocals and mainly acoustic arrangements of these songs are strikingly beautiful even if they are, as the title says, “Black Happy”.

These songs are tiny gems, made polished by the strength of Ochs plaintive voice and bright chiming guitar. Only one of these eleven tracks makes it past the three minute mark, and although brief and brittle sounding, after a few listens the reveal themselves to be of generally fine quality and of sufficient spirit to last the test of the time. Fans of Neal Casal‘s hushed, gothic americana will find much here to enjoy.

On the excellent  ‘Die In Your Arms’ and ‘Blues For My Baby’ Ochs carries off the same trick that Frank Turner manages of making acoustic music fit for stadia.  Ochs voice has the pure-pop croon of the Finn brothers of Crowded House, and yet on ‘Lead-Out’ has the throaty warble of James Hetfield and on the entirely a cappella ‘Faces In The Crowd’ the tone and resonance of some olde worlde madrigal singer.

The diversity within these simple little songs is slowly and quietly impressive.  Not every track turns out to be a gem though, a couple turn out to be ice crystals that melt away after your listening stops, however in general this is a gorgeous, uplifting experience whose title really captures the essence of it’s splendour.

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