| BS 156

The Ax in the Oak

Weaver’s mood is double-edged; darkness and melancholy always live in close proximity to a romantically hopeful and redeeming view of the human condition.

Full Description

After years of chopping wood to keep his house warm, Ben Weaver has left the ax in the oak. It’s a statement of confidence as well as an artistic metaphor for Weaver, whose sixth studio album, The Ax in the Oak, is his most realized and mature work to date—the culmination of personal and musical growth and his time to enjoy the fire he’s stoked.

For the recording of The Ax in the Oak, Weaver came to Chicago’s Engine Studios where he teamed up again with Brian Deck (Iron and WineModest Mouse), the producer with whom he worked with on his 2007 release Paper Sky. Drawn together by mutual friends and a love for the shimmering, electronic pop of Austrian-based musician Christian Fennesz, Weaver and Deck made a conscious effort to take a more experimental approach to create the mise en scene for Weaver’s songs; Weaver came into the studio with only half of the basic melodies and chord structures written for each song, and the duo took turns going in and out of the live room working on each others’ previous idea.

Apropos to Deck’s work with Califone, the result is an organic album with electronic elements, thoughtfully complimenting Weaver’s earth-honest and indelicate delivery, while also not completely neglecting his folk-roots. It also yielded Weaver’s first instrumental composition (“Said in the Stones”). Joining Weaver and Deck in the studio were cellist Julia Kent (Antony and The Johnsons), vocalist Erica Froman (Anathallo), and some of Ben’s friends: Will Duncan (drums), Blake Sloan (bass), and Steve Reidell (bass, Hood Internet). 

Ax was recorded in Chicago, but the writing took place in Berlin, where Weaver bunked in a 4th floor courtyard apartment for several weeks during July 2007. Weaver’s approach to songwriting is not your typical verse-chorus-verse arrangements, but rather little song-stories about birds, phone booths, empty parking lots, strangers in the checkout line, plastic bags stuck in trees and other things that may go unnoticed in life’s overstuffed Wunderkammer.


White Snow
Anything With Words
Hawks And Crows


Short Description
  • ...has perfectly balanced his bleak, bleary-eyed lyricism with more uplifting poetry, and his rustic backwoods-folk sound with modern urban ambience. Deep, beautiful stuff.

    — Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • The Ax in the Oak could succeed as an album with little more than Ben Weaver’s guitar; his gruff, earthy vocals; and his haunting, literate, and strikingly un-clichéd lyricism. But Weaver doesn’t stop there. Instead, he textures the album with electronic accents, cello flourishes, and angelic backing vocals that elevate the 12 tracks into the tree tops, and, at times, casts them down into the dirt.

    — An Honest Tune
  • All his experience informs the dusky, vaguely Beckish troubadour's latest CD, which finds him decorating his warm, colourfully detailed Americana narratives with lush strings, skittery beatboxes, noisy textures and experimental sonics. A seamless blend of old and new.

    — Toronto Sun
  • Listen closer to Weaver's songs and that urban/rural balance subtly plays itself out in his music. There's a tug of war between traditional folk, the stuff of open chords and blue skies, and contemporary indie-rock fare. Weaver seems to instinctually know that back-to-basics folkies are a dime a dozen, and tweaks the sound to incorporate a full band and piano without losing faith with his roots.

  • Weaver delivers a candid and organic album deep-rooted in folk with a wisdom bordering that of Lou Reed. The Ax in the Oak is an uncompromising raw legacy of both turmoil and redemption.

    — The Sentamentalist

Track List

  • 1. White Snow
  • 2. Red Red Fox
  • 3. Soldiers War
  • 4. Anything With Words
  • 5. Pretty Girl
  • 6. Hawks and Crows
  • 7. Dead Bird
  • 8. Said in Stones
  • 9. Alligators and Owls
  • 10. Hey Ray
  • 11. Out Behind the House
  • 12. The History of Weather


You May Also Dig…