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Elephant Revival

These Changing Skies – 2013 (Itz Evolving/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival - 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) and Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo) - creates a distinctive sound that combines the charm of an unpretentious attitude and an antebellum approach that invests the music with a timeless appeal. Their latest is a study in carefully considered circumspect, a graceful and occasionally pensive approach to Americana tempered by the players' instincts and imagination.

"These Changing Skies" follows the same precepts established on their earlier efforts, and the result is an agreeable nod toward to a surprisingly traditional template. From the rousing Celtic jubilation that fortifies The Rakers, to the lilting pluck and pleasantries of Remembering a Beginning and beyond, through the folk finesse of The Pasture and Spinning, Elephant Revival never allow their ambitions to overwhelm them, while never shrinking from the possibilities they accord. That's the main reason the group comes across as so consistently genteel, be it in the wistful strains of the quiet, beguiling "Satisfied" or the driving determination that propels "Down to the Sea." Nevertheless, the best efforts are saved for the album's conclusion, specifically, the striking refrain of Grace of a Woman - already a concert favorite - and Rogue River, gospel-inspired stomp that ends the set with an unrelenting spurt of energy.

Ultimately, Elephant Revival comes across as a thoughtful bunch, pensive to a degree, but also clearly constrained by a rootsy reserve that prevents them from rocking all out. Still, subtlety is an attribute that this band clearly knows how to use to its advantage, and that inevitably makes them all the more impressive.