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Elephant Revival a Melding of Genres and Culture, Past and Present

By David Goe

Living in Colorado we are reminded every day of our cultural heritage.

It’s in the names of our city streets, such as Chipeta and Ute avenues.

Look at the towns that populate the Centennial State such as Cortez, Leadville or Nederland.

Nederland? Hold on, what the heck is a Nederland?

Well, just off the Continental Divide, Nederland was set up as a trading post between the Ute Indians and Western pioneers. A mountain town straight from western folklore, it is quintessential Americana, the kind of stuff you glaze over in Colorado history class.

One group of Nederlanders, a band known as Elephant Revival, cannot escape these cultural roots. In a city founded on the idea of exchanging cultural goods and customs, Elephant Revival is a fusion of culture past and present and celebrator of Americana.

Elephant Revival plays like the simplicity of a cast iron skillet, or at least that’s what you are meant to think. A quintet that weaves harmonies, string and percussion instruments together, it is bare-boned and efficient in its storytelling.

Elephant Revival pulls from the best of American root music to create its sound. It’s not quite bluegrass, or jazz, or Celtic, or folk. It’s simply a melding of all styles.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” That’s the first line on the band’s bio and never clearer than on its 2012 album. “It’s Alive.”

Bonnie Paine’s washboard percussion intro on “Tam Lin Set” sounds like a typewriter tapping out a frantic message. Low guitar tunes add drama, and as the band starts to hit full stride, fiddle carrying the main melody, the song says so much without uttering a word.

Elephant Revival is conscious about the space it occupies. An Americana band at heart, Elephant Revival makes music that speaks volumes about love, loss and everything in between.

On “To and From,” the band sings, “This heart’s a steam engine baby / love is you.” It’s an endearing message rooted in the past, but timeless in nature.

Listen to the band’s sound firsthand on Friday, April 5, at the Mesa Theater and Lounge.

Opening Friday’s proceedings is local favorite The Williams Brothers Band. Also incorporating truly American music styles such as blues, folk, country and funk, The Williams Brothers Band are rock solid in its delivery.

One minute the band can make you feel warm and cozy, like a Sunday afternoon on the back porch, with an acoustic blues based serenade. The next minute the band might channel the raw power of Jimi Hendrix in an electric guitar heavy assault of your senses.

The band has over 20 years experience and are so engrossed in its sound that the band performs live without a set list.

“We just get up and let the music play us,” James Williams says. Williams also hinted that the band may debut new original material and possibly a new cover at Friday’s show.

There is something charming about bands playing music that incorporates our historical roots and values. Groups such as Elephant Revival and The Williams Brothers Band are playing music about country and freedom, characteristics of American life.

They might not break any new creative ground with their music, but their songs authentically capture the collection of ideals that make Americans American.

Don’t you just feel at home when listening to this style of music? I do. The thing about Americana is that its not somber nostalgic tones of years bygone, its a holistic celebration of all good things. 

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