Elephant Revival - These Changing Skies

Evolving Records/Thirty Tigers IER003

Since joining their musical talents together in 2006, the five-piece Elephant Revival have worked hard to create a community of fans for their eclectic, acoustic-based sound. The Colorado quintet dabbles in many genres: bluegrass, Americana, psychedelic folk, country, old-time country and even jazzy interludes. Comprising Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe and musical saw); Sage Cook (electric banjo/guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, viola and vocals); Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo and vocals); Daniel Rodriguez (acoustic guitar, electric banjo/guitar and vocals); and Bridget Law (fiddle and vocals), they’ve built a healthy following across America for their dynamic stage show which they are bringing to the UK in late January.

This latest album, though released in America last September, gets a belated UK release in mid-March—yes I know, with internet sales, and a UK tour, what’s the point of such a delay! On to the music, and I have to say that as this album meandered its way to its conclusion that I was full of bitter disappointment. I was expecting something great, and I felt let-down by what I was hearing. I’m assuming that all songs are penned by the band members, and that’s the first problem. There aren’t bad tunes on the album. There aren’t great ones either. It wasn’t until track 11, Grace Of A Woman, that I heard any kind of indication as to how good this outfit is likely to be on stage. Right off they sound like mountain folks stompin’ and hollering together on planks of barn wood among their kin-folk revellers with fiddles sawing away in the background. But that was about it.

The second problem is that from a critical viewpoint they lack a strong lead singer, though the harmonies are enticing, the band interaction and personality seems to be impressive, it would be easy to overlook those flaws—besides were the Band leaders Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson even considered classic vocalists? But on this showing, I’m not convinced that Elephant Revival are in the same league as the Band—at least not on the evidence of this somewhat lacklustre album. I’m sure that my words are going to upset a good many of their dedicated fans, but I have to tell it how I hear it not how I see it.