Elephant Revival. These Changing Skies.
Itz Evolving Records, 2013.
Elephant Revival is a quintet that’s emerged from Nederland, Colorado, and in 2011 won a best album of the year award in the progressive edge category from the Indie Acoustic Music Project. Their sound is difficult to accurately compare this group because it pulls from so many varied influences, but you can hear overtones of Celtic and classic Appalachian folk in their tunes, among other things. Besides being musically diverse, Elephant Revival strives to help preserve biodiversity by calling attention to issues of stewardship, sustainability, and environmentalism. A theme found in the group’s media and mission is put into words with the phrase “Where words fail, music speaks.” This idea of a universal language and unification of humanity is something that I appreciate nearly as much as a good tune.
Birds and Stars starts out with a dreamy, ethereal flight into the band’s world with soaring vocals and sweeping melodies. We come back down to earth with Remembering a Beginning as it trips along a nostalgic path of a past that isn’t quite fully remembered. The Obvious is punctuated with staccato notes and juxtaposition of rising and falling scales. Taking a break into pure music, The Rakers stumbles into a reel-feeling melody for a short time, before bringing back vocals in Spinning, as the sounds twirl and weave a vision of the metaphysical. Satisfied is calming and refreshing all at once, lifting spirits and tickling ears. Highlighting the fiddles in long drawn-out phrases alternating with jaunty lively themes, Down to the Sea accelerates before it tumbles into a pillowy soft ending. The Pasture brings another musical reprieve with brilliant string-work as the washboard fades to the back a bit compared to the rest of the record. Leaning harder into indie rock with some country instrumentation, Willing and Able is a confident tune with just the slightest swagger. Over and Over has a calm reverb that lends an earthy tone to its more subtle sounds, and Grace of a Woman begins very guitar-forward and country sounding, before blending into a more complex medley than the first bars would indicate. Finishing out the set on a high note is Rogue River, a stomping, clapping, tribal sounding tune which begs for some shaking and moving along with the music as your soul lifts to meet challenges ahead.
“These Changing Skies” follows up their 2012 album “It’s Alive” in a similar fashion but without copying too much, and leaving plenty of innovation to keep the new album fresh for a while.
Personnel: Sage Cook (banjo, guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo, bass and fiddle), Bridget Law (fiddle, octave fiddle), Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox), Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, banjo, bass), Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo
Tracks: Birds and Stars, Remembering a Beginning, The Obvious, The Rakers, Spinning, Satisfied, Down to the Sea, The Pasture, Willing and Able, Over And Over, Grace of a Woman, Rogue River