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Printed in Marquee Magazine Nov 2008
Elephant Revival is living proof that the way high Colorado Front Range town of Nederland continues to inspire some of the finest and most creative music to be found anywhere. Following the lead, but not the footsteps, of groups like Leftover Salmon and the Yonder Mountain String Band, the five-piece Elephant Revival has created a unique and appealing modern acoustic sound simultaneously soaked in all manner of tradition.
"You can call it 'neo-acoustic electric transcendental folk'...The folk rock connotation doesn’t quite cut it," said multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/vocalist Dan Rose during a recent breakfast sit-down with The Marquee at Nederland’s acoustic HQ, the Shining Star Cafe; lead singer and woman-of-all-sounds-percussive, Bonnie Paine, joined the mid-morning party as well.
In a little over two years, the group that spent the earlier part of the decade getting acquainted at places like East Coast rooftops, bluegrass festivals and Rainbow Gatherings - and "finally got together at Walnut Valley in Winfield, Kansas," according to Rose - has played about 300 shows, toured festivals, theatres, clubs and house concerts around the region and beyond, and recently released a stellar debut CD. Fresh off a summer tour highlighted by appearances at many regional festivals including YarmonyGrass, the Yellowstone Music Festival and Desert Rocks Festival, the group has been celebrating the release of Elephant Revival at a series of local shows and appearances.
Produced and engineered by Lyons transplant and now local string ace, David Tiller (Taarka, ThaMusement), Elephant Revival is a wonderful debut album, presenting the songwriting and singing talents of all five members in a cohesive fashion that reflects the collective vision and sensitivities of the group, and which has placed ER firmly in the folk tradition while simultaneously and seamlessly incorporating elements of jazz, swing, rock (with multi-instrumentalist Sage Cook on electric guitar), Scottish tradition, and even a little bluegrass and new age. The beauty of this mix in Elephant Revival is that it all seems so right. With the beautiful, some say angelic, voices of rock-solid washboard/percussionist Bonnie Paine and accomplished fiddler Bridget Law working in perfect harmony with each other and with the guys in the band - plus three members who play several different instruments - Elephant Revival paints a broad tapestry of lovely and haunting melodies and tales of love and emotion, up-tempo, uplifting modern ballads, and instrumental pieces bridging the gap from olde world tradition to 21st Century acoustic. With a host of friends and family assisting on strings, baby sounds and even French horn (ie. Dave, Enion & Aesop Tiller; Zach Cramer; Daniel Plane; and Annie Paine), Elephant Revival has a lot to be proud of with their self-titled first album.
With time now to catch their collective breaths following a memorable summer, the group has, for the moment, shifted their focus to a limited number of local appearances and a likely mountain town run this winter, planning for the near future and, most importantly, recharging their collective and individual creative muses. "We'll be taking a little time off in the coming months to continue cultivating new music," said Paine, which means that Front Range folks will likely see a variety of ER side projects hit the calendar in coming months.
For Paine, reflecting on these urgent modern times and the role of her friends and herself in Elephant Revival, it seems obvious to this writer that the words of author Tom Robbins, nearly verbatim from the end of Still Life With Woodpecker, are quite apropos: Everything is part of it. "Being ready for change is huge ... believing in the potential for great things coming from change, positive things, doing what we can to help" seems to be a daily guiding principle for Paine. "Realizing where we’re at right at this time" and connecting with a "sense of spiritual community" that can, hopefully, without sounding too trite, help save the world, is the message that appears to fuel this uniquely multi-talented young woman who regularly sits in on washboard with her friends in Little Feat when they find themselves in the same town.
"The bus is running good, the tank's full of veggie oil. We've been collecting oil for it all summer long on tour, all kinds of ways. It's a start, it gets people thinking ... We’re filling vehicles with bags of apples!" laughed Paine, who, along with her band mates, has a strong interest in educating and networking with different communities on projects like sustainable living and touring, biofuel, and local food production.
The big picture for Elephant Revival in 2009 is still coming into focus, and the group hopes some big things could be in store. "We're planning to be a strong presence at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January," said Rose. "We’d love to get overseas sometime soon and are looking into that. We’ve also been talking with various friends in other parts of the country about doing some national touring together this year."