Title: All Creatures
Release Date: 05/18/12
Reviewer: Josh Hamm
- Anxious and Distracted
- It’s In Your Hands
- Rocks in My Stomach
- All Creatures
- Brother Caleb
- Samson (Pt. 1)
- I Look At All Of This
With All Creatures being their first full length album, you’ve probably never heard ElisaRay before. That is a travesty. Elisaray may not be redefining the folk genre, but they are far from being just another indie folk group, they stand out from the crowd. Quite far from the crowd. Far enough for this to be one of the best folk albums in recent memory.
Tommy Chesebro’s lead vocals have a unique sound, with a distinct scratchy quality to them which sets them apart from a lot of other similar sounding groups, although at times they sound like Andy Hull. On some songs, like “All Creatures,” he shows how powerful his vocals can be as he cries out in the last verses, his voice almost reaching a scream as it cracks with emotion. His great singing is supplemented by brilliant group vocals, with similar harmonies to Seryn and Fleet Foxes, as everyone in the band chips in to make each song as beautiful as it could be, which shines on tracks like “Brother Caleb” and “Hoping.”
The songs are still written around the guitar, but the sound is fleshed out and engages the listener at a deeper level due to the use of banjo, fiddle and cello. The banjo and cello work is notably phenomenal on all the tracks, but especially on “It’s In Your Hands.” The ebb and flow of the instruments create a lush, personable atmosphere.
Lyrically, Elisaray has got it figured out. All Creatures is tied together thematically with a juxtaposition between our own struggling and doubts with life, and with God’s beauty in nature. The opening lyrics in “All Creatures,” sing out “Someday I hope to be as simple as the birds, The winds they sing, the waves sing back, The trees bow down, with branches clap, Have you ever heard a symphony so sweet?” It evokes powerful images, especially as it ends on “I have been to mountains high, Valleys low beneath the sky, But no matter where I go I just can’t leave, This grace you breathe.” Then, on “Rocks In My Stomach,” which features some terrific gang vocals, they sing, “Every moving thing is raging, crying out in its own tongue, and your beauty is amazing, for these lips can never offer you enough, But I don’t need to sing of your beauty, to make it ever true.” The song “I Look At All Of This” roundsthe theme as one of the best songs instrumentally, as well as lyrically, staring in awe and wonder at how the creation reflects the Creator. Their lyrics are incredibly profound and are bound to strike a chord within you.
Every song is very personal, it sounds like a journal, a pouring out of heart and soul. I found the song “Profoundistractions” to be particularly insightful. The singer is going through a period of doubt as he admits: “This screen means more to me than it ever should right now. And I wish my hands were crippled, my eyes would fall out.” He’s finding it hard to do what he knows is right, singing “I love the Lord with all my soul or at least I try,” and then, just like St. Augustine prayed “Lord make me chaste, but not yet,” Tommy ends the song with “The moths and rust can wait, just give me a little more time. “ The honesty and vulnerability in their songs is tangible and beautiful.
The opening and closing songs complete each other. Each has the same instrumental, and their lyrics are remarkably close, but the themes are reversed. In the opening one, “Intro,” he sings “Father, I’m falling, I’m selfishly alone, so I cry tonight, take my hands, my eyes, I’ve lost the privileges of them both,” but then it changes in “Outro,” as he sings “Father, I’m falling in love with what You spoke. So I cry tonight, take my hands, my eyes, you redeem the sins of both, sweet Father, I’m trying, making You what I want the most.” It’s a beautiful turn from doubt and guilt to realizing the power of forgiveness and redemption.
Overall: They may be a little rough around the edges, but watch this band explode into the scene if they keep up musical quality like this. The strong vocals with soft backing harmonies, both female and male, are so easy to love. Typical folk instrumentation is executed to perfection, and they’re not afraid to rock out and make energetic music. What makes this album great is that they’ve eschewed writing epic, sweeping songs, choosing instead to take a very personal approach to song writing which connects to the audience. The worst part about it is that it’s too short, I want to hear more. This is a must buy for any folk fan, and I think that it’s going to be one of the top albums of 2012. Once you hear it, I think you’ll be likeminded.
RIYL: Gregory Alan Isakov, Seryn, Frontier Ruckus, Hey Marseilles,
You can get their album at their bandcamp page.