By Andrew Howie
Back in the summer of 2012, I was fresh off my first musical festival experience and ready for more. I jumped at the next one I could afford to make it to: Shoe Fest, a smaller festival held in Manteno, IL, hosted by Old Shoe. It was a much more focused festival than Summer Camp, with a definite emphasis on folk, bluegrass, roots, funk, psychedelia, reggae, etc. This was also my first festival working as a member of the press, and I interviewed my first band that weekend as well: Nederland, CO group Elephant Revival. Their music is a dense pastiche of folk, Celtic strings, washboard beats, twangy psychedelic country, sea shanties, impeccable vocals, mystical Eastern instrumentation, and swelling, dramatic harmonies.
That was all four years ago now, and Elephant Revival has just released their latest studio effort, Petals. This is a band pushing themselves to redefine their sound while remaining true to their druid-folk roots. Bonnie Paine (vocals, stompboard, washboard, djembe, musical saw), Charlie Rose (vocals, pedal steel, banjo, cello, trumpet, trombone), Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo vocals), Daniel Rodriguez (acoustic guitar, electric banjo/guitar, vocals), and Bridget Law (fiddle and vocals) truly have an all-encompassing sound, and limiting its branding to one genre simply isn’t fair. Woodsy, pensive, gloomy, joyous, delicate, intense, they go all over the place; one song could be an upbeat tune between lovers, with the next being a crushing string symphony reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
The album starts out with a morose, almost foreboding sensibility with Eastern chord progressions and rhythms, before moving through grassy ups and downs, winding through the woods and over rivers, all the while retaining the contemplative themes and motifs of nature, love, loss, and humanity that define Elephant Revival and effortlessly switching between bare-bones gypsy wailing and lush, vibrant classically-influenced folk. This is another one of those early-morning-in-the-rain-with-a-cup-of-tea records.
Having said all of that, the most telling thing to me about this record is that every time I listen to it, I hear something new and have more to say about it. Elephant Revival’s songwriting is electrifying in a very subtle way. The unconventional instrumentation creates a diverse and earthy thicket for the musicians to run wild through, and it is a joy to hear. I highly recommend Petals to just about anyone. There is something here for fans of all genres, and you should check it out immediately. Happy listening!
Rating 9 out of 10