If T.G. Elias was from the United States, I’d probably call his music Americana. What do we call it if he’s from the UK? Britannia? Nahhh. Let’s call it awesome folk music. Elias has compiled a fantastic album here, complete with several interesting songs that call on a variety of forms of vocal blending and lead vocal stylings. While at times feeling minimalist, Elias displays an unexpected level of artistry even in the simple things. It’s a great album that listeners will wish never stopped.
Channeling a bit of Ray Lamontagne, early Beatles, and even some of the classic songwriting of Bob Dylan, this is a fantastic album from start to finish. The lyrics are quintessential heartbreak and love songs. The music is sometimes soft, sometimes jam, and always good. Fans of the folk revival of the early 21st century will find another joyous entry.
“Final Ever Fling of an Englishman” tells the story of an adventure. From the upbeat pacing to the beautiful background vocals, the song is delightful. Elias’s singing sounds a little Dylan, a little Denver, and a lot of folk. It’s a complex morality tale about treating people right in our world. Check it out.
This is an extremely difficult album to review because there really are not “skip” tracks. There are not really even good-better-best songs. They are ALL good. It’s a good problem to have. “Ball and Chain” is a wonderful heartache song, written with a well-developed blues style in music and lyrics. Elias makes a few seemingly-effortless guitar licks that show off his instrumental abilities.
“God’s Own Land” is a gospel tune with a deeply-conceived aesthetic appeal. It’s got patterns of blues and folk music, with a gesture toward Dylan’s rock directly. It sounds, interestingly, like it could have come right out of Woody Guthrie’s song book. Without being able to see the lyrics directly, it’s difficult to tell the exact message of the song.
“Life after Stromberg” is one of the best songs on a superb album. It sounds the most like Ray Lamontagne with its own intriguing quality. The harmonica, in particular, makes the song. It’s not complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. The background vocals, probably a bit of studio magic, help fill the song. They seem like the kind of thing that would be fun for a live audience to sing, making for a great integrated live show experience. While “The Hollow Trophy” also has some incredible harmonies, they are the subtle and sweet variety that beg for silence from listeners. Seriously it has a sort of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” component to it. It’s almost as if the song itself has a “quieted spirit.”
“The Ballad of Lenny Crow” is the most characteristic song on the album. Folk, harmonica, and well-balanced vocals all come together for a sing-a-long tune. It’s about a legendary figure who “didn’t shoot straight but still could steal the show.” This is one of those songs that I’d LOVE to know the story behind it. It’s so obviously allegorical, but impossible for an outsider to decipher. It might, unfortunately, be one of those classics that never is fully known.
I don’t use the term “classic” lightly. With the right amount of listeners and publicity, this could really be a hit album. Its timeless qualities make it appealing in a broad sense. Elias made a fantastic choice to end the album with a cover of the truly classic gospel blues tune “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” He does it so well, listeners may find it the best performance on the entire album. It’s whole. It’s rich. It caps off an album that is sure to factor in many critics “best of” lists for 2012.