Artist: The Elms
Title: The Great American Midrange
Times: 12 tracks
A few years ago, in early winter, I was wandering the aisles of a big box store, trying to remember what I came for, when I found myself in the music department. I flipped through a few discs, when my eye caught on one of them. The Elms, proclaimed the CD in golden print on a faux leather, old-timey, Bible book-like cover. In smaller print underneath the words The Chess Hotel was framed in double quotes. I had heard quite a bit about the Elms recently; an article compared their latest release to the Rolling Stones, but I had yet to hear anything by them. The CD was less than seven dollars, so I considered this an opportunity to acquaint myself and brought the music home.
On first listen, I was impressed by the sound all right, it did rock, but I'll admit, I was somewhat underwhelmed overall. I put the disc away and nearly forgot about it. The months went by and the weather warmed. I went looking for a good windows-down, sunny-day, shades-on, rocking record to go with my Spring-time mood . . . thumbed through some recent discs and pulled out The Elms. For the next month or so, The Chess Hotel was a good friend, making my commute a little less intolerable. Yes, this was great driving music, but there was poetry here as well. The loners, transients and brawlers who inhabited these tunes lived in a world where "Born to Run" played incessantly on the jukebox and everyone worked at the local textile mill.
If you bought The Chess Hotel, you have a pretty good idea where The Great American Midrange is headed. I've heard a number of critics tag this as "Heartland Rock," similar in tone to, say, John Mellencamp. There is some truth to that idea, but The Elms have an honesty and approach all their own. Sure, there are songs here about wild hearts, dreamers and working men and women. However, it's the Elms' tendency to imbue these portraits with hues taken from their own spit and blood that bring them alive and make them unique.
Here you'll find John Doe, who lost a good chunk of his nest egg and property value during the great recession. He's still strutting his stuff, but finds it vital to say, "a little prayer should the day get rough." Then there are the young lovers who seek solace riding the Zip and Ferris Wheel at the County Fair. You get the feeling that this is their version of a romance in Paris, a little paradise away from the relentless work-a-day and work-a-night world they live out on a daily basis. This is also home to the romantic, who knows he can wrap the weary world away in a box, reverse Pandora-like, if, for only a moment, he can get back home to see his girl "in her evening gown."
These are people who take temporary refuge in the small comforts their world offers, forever on the move, but grasping for a stable handhold as the world turns beneath them. Ultimately, these are people like you and me. The situations may be different, but the fears and hopes are similar.
We see this same person throughout The Great American Midrange. There he is in "The Little Ways," still trying to hold onto some part of the love he lost. When he sings, "Oh, I miss you." we are right there with him, and we're reminded, once again, how hard it is to find true love--and how easily it's lost.
When, in a "A Place In The Sun," he testifies:
Well, life shot right by me, it's hard to explain,
The days started passing, now they all look the same.
Well, every good spirit needs someplace to run,
So I need to find me a place in the sun.
we're left thinking of our desire to be free, to run full-out, windows down, hair blowing, shades on and music blaring, and equally of our desire to find a place we can call home. Such a place is The Great American Midrange.
Note: Purchase The Great American Midrange from www.theelms.net and you get an additional twelve songs, the complete The Great American Midrange song cycle, minus the hidden track, reinterpreted acoustically.
Gary Dean Kersey