An old saying tells us that if some is good, more must be better. On the new album Honest, Ordinary Elephant shows that sometimes less can be pretty good too. Specifically, the duo shows what can be done with just a guitar (Crystal Damore), banjo (Pete Damore), and vocals.
“Scars We Keep” is powerful song. The melody is spare not just in the instrumentation, but in the space between notes. With the minimal instrumentation, the harmony vocals are even stronger. However the most powerful part of the song is that the lyrics are just one hard-hitting line after another. The narrator wonders “How can I keep my mind open if my eyes are closed? It’s hard to hide the hate when there’s no love to show.” those lines are strong enough, but the most powerful line is “I was born to be a bigot, but that don’t mean I’m one.”
The imagery in “Shadow” is so sharp that it seems like a short story put to music. The narrator takes you from a pizza crust in a parking lot to an uncomfortable greeting between a customer and a greeter at a supermarket. Every image in the song puts you right into the story.
While most of the album falls into the folk-Americana category, there is a definite Tom Waits vibe in “I’m Alright.” It’s not necessarily the sound but the pace and the mood that bring a Tom Waits ballad to mind.
This album is full of examples of stellar songwriting. You’d be hard pressed to find a better example than in “Worth the Weight.” The lyrics specifically will make you pay attention. She sings, “You will wonder if it’s worth the weight, the worry that wears you down. Half your life spent figuring out how to make the other half count,” and after that last phrase you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. But in the words of John Cougar Mellencamp, “it hurts so good.”
This album is a study in minimalism, and not just in the instrumentation. This certainly doesn’t sound like an album that was overproduced, which is a good thing because it allows you to hear the pure sounds of this duo. Honest will be available everywhere on May 3. Order your copy here.