Album cover GoldenOak “Room to Grow.” Image courtesy of the artist.

GoldenOak released its second album, “Room to Grow” on June 24, and it’s already in the running for one of my favorite local albums of 2021. They’ve hit their stride in every way possible: lyrically, vocally and musically.

GoldenOak is the Portland-based indie-folk and Americana act featuring siblings Zak Kendall (guitar, vocals) and Lena Kendall (vocals, clarinet), along with Mike Knowles on electric and upright bass and drummer Jackson Cromwell. “Room to Grow” is their second full-length album. Their first one was “Pleasant St.” from 2016, which they followed with the EP “Foxgloves” in 2017.

There’s a thread running through the album’s 10 tracks about the havoc climate change is wreaking, both locally and globally, which they tackle with gorgeous sibling harmonies and poetically penned tunes.

Take the opening track “Paradise.” It starts off on a bed of acoustic guitar and piano, then switches into a faster lane with an uptick in tempo and the addition of drums. Here’s an excerpt:

Through the valley there’s a winding stream
Little river, in the springtime
But the grasses don’t keep their green
When the rains, not fallin’

“Islands” is a toe-tapping folk rock jewel that challenges the listener to “give a lot of love to the world” and promises that they’ll do the same. “Falter” has a gentleness to it as the Kendalls aim their words at children, instilling hope in a greedy world. The song has a sweeping lushness, and Lena’s vocals shine extra bright during the refrain.

GoldenOak. Photo by Heather.M.Bowes

Then there’s “Ash,” a song so stunning that, if I were in charge of such things, it would be getting radio airplay all over the country. GoldenOak has hired a publicist, so maybe that will become a reality. Literally just about every song on “Room to Grow” could be a single worthy of many ears.

I’ve been a fan of this band for a few years now, and with “Room to Grow,” I’m ready to laminate my membership card to their fan club.

The last “Room to Grow” track I’ll gush over is one that Lena sings lead on called “Little Light.” The track features guests Dan Capaldi on percussion and trumpet from Christian Bertelsen. The words flow like a prayer:

Let the sun be a guide
Let the wind turn these minds
Ancient answers to a question
For a future we can build

“Room to Grow” was produced by Zak Kendall, engineered by Ryan Ordway and Dan Capaldi, mixed by Ordway and Capaldi and mastered by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering. It was recorded at Monico Studios in Portland and mixed at The Greenhouse in Guilford, New Hampshire, and The Studio in Portland.

“Room To Grow” is available digitally and on streaming platforms. Order it on CD or vinyl at goldenoakband.com/store.

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