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Elephant Revival

Petals – 2016 (Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Elephant Revival

There are many bands aiming for 'string band' folk status or using that format as a vehicle for authenticity; Elephant Revival may have the instrumentation to claim modern jug band lineage, but it's what they do with it that sets them into a different category.

With little more than some light percussion and various stringed instruments, the songs cover a breathtaking amount of musical territory. Opening song "Hello You Who" is a jazzy soul meditation, Lake Street Dive style; it is followed by the persistent, driving pop of "Peace Tonight." Having both Bonnie Paine and new member Charlie Rose on vocals gives the group more options and lends a bit of Fairport Convention influence to the overall vibe here.

Rose's contemplative tunes provide the gravitas that anchors these proceedings; "On and On" tackles nothing less than the 'eternal flame' of life, and his voice splits the difference between the poetic lyricism of 1960's era Eric Andersen and the plainspoken style of Mandolin Orange's Andrew Marlin. "When I Fall" throws in a more anthemic, rock-oriented approach that's part Fleetwood Mac, part Pink Floyd.

The band's arrangements are more about atmosphere than attitude, bordering on indie folk psychedelia at times, but infusing everything from slinky soul to ersatz hip-hop beats. It is an infectious, at times mesmerizing mixture of melody and melancholy that both transcends and translates genre conventions into something best enjoyed without unnecessary restrictions, or definitions.