I have a message for those who enjoy listening to live music of any kind - and for those who book the venues that host such events - get to know Elk Creek. They are a group of very talented musicians that make some exciting new music and they sound really, really good together.
The story of Elk Creek is one of reunion. Aaron Price [vocals], Jeremy Brown [harmonica], and Brad Smith [guitar] all grew up together and used to play in band called Hector who had a practice space in Trenton, Ohio located on Elk Creek Road. Two years ago when they 'got the band back together' they added Travis Estell on drums and Nick Whittenburg on bass. They quickly noticed that their sound, style and songwriting had all matured. The end result of this reunion is the 7-song EP entitled Greenfield Project.
Greenfield Project was recorded and mixed earlier this year by Brian Niesz at Ultrasuede Studio. The final mastering was done by Dave Davis of The All Night Party and the cover features hand-drawn illustrations by Matthew Stoll. The overall production of this album is superb and really allows each instrument to shine, in its own way, on every piece.
Elk Creek doesn't have a sound per se but more of a persona that incorporates the grittier inflections of Neil Young, the graceful elegance of Iron and Wine and the blissful joy of Blind Melon.
With song titles like "Front Porch" and "Moonshine," before I opened the CD I was expecting the music to have more of a down-home county/bluegrass drawl but, to my surprise, there is a stronger straight-up rock vibe that will get your head bobbing, your feet dancing and your smile shining.
It is difficult, with a band that features harmonica so prominently, to not make comparisons to Blues Traveler or Neil Young - and, sure, there is some of that - but Elk Creek has managed to carve out a sound all their own that has a hint of latter-day hippie jam band balanced with a rich singer-songwriter tradition.
Not to slight the other members of Elk Creek, but, for me, the majesty of the music starts with the guitar work of Brad Smith. A graduate of UC's College-Conservatory of Music, Smith can make the guitar absolutely bend to his will and can create mind-blowing soundscapes that you wouldn't think possible with an acoustic guitar.
To help support this assertion, I ask you to check out the song 'Furlough,' a soulful duet by Price and Smith, recorded at Northern Kentucky University that does not appear on the EP.
Strangely enough, two of my favorite tracks on Greenfield Project, "Gold in My Hand" and "Cathexis," appear back-to-back on the album. "Gold in My Hand" is perhaps heavier than most of the other songs and has a strong blues-rock beat that gives it a feeling like classic Guess Who. "Cathexis" holds a sadder reflection at its core. The harmonica is noticeably absent, but Smith's guitar and Whittenburg's bass intertwine beautifully in this song. The tracks contrast each other in such a way that each makes the other stronger by its proximity.
But it was the opening track, "Bound to Break," that grabbed me from the second I hit 'Play' and took me for a ride and left me saying "Damn!" out loud at the end. This is my pick for best-of this week.
So, as I said, do your ears a favor. Check out Elk Creek's website or Facebook page for a list of upcoming shows and take a friend or two along to enjoy some local music that will really fill the room.
If you can't make it to a show, Greenfield Project by Elk Creek is now available from Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp and Rock Paper Scissors.