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Who are Ordinary Elephant? Well, they are a duo. Made up of Peter Damore and his wife Crystal Hariu-Danmore, and though raised a state apart (Crystal in Louisiana and Pete in Texas) they are a like-minded couple. A real duo. With them containing a beautiful ear for organic nurtured music, I imagine some will claim (and rightly so) that here is a partnership formed in heaven. They have been playing together since 2011, and made their debut recording in 2013 via Dusty Words & Cardboard Boxes.
Greatly influenced by the musical nous, and playing style of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings the duo craft studious and simple beautifully arranged material. The kind that sneaks its way into your heart. Apart from Peter’s banjo and harmony vocals (and on one track, “Leaving Kerrville” acoustic guitar) backing Crystal’s splendid lead vocals you have Jon Gagan, upright bass, Jason Crosby, fiddle, piano; Sharon Gilchrist, Mandolin; Jono Mason tenor guitar on “Best Of You” plus David Berkeley (vocals) on “The Things he Saw” and Mark Clark (brushes) on “Highway 71”.
Both are singer-songwriters – their songs weave beautiful vignettes, and with banjo ever in evidence, and the lyrics flipping from a reflective celebratory feel to shrewd observations of life around them. Some are of themselves, as they dig deep within to look at each other’s loves, fears, plus inspirational figures in their respective lives. Some of whom they have known all their lives; along with those they have made only fleeting contact, or have read about, or as in the case of fiddle and banjo warmed “Before I Go”, the lyrics alone of Townes Van Zandt were been enough to prompt a line or two (or a full song even as connection was made). Staying with great Texas singer-songwriters, Guy Clark gains a mention in the tasty liner notes (by the artists themselves) in regards of how ‘some days the song writes you’, and with their song “Can I Count On You? as beautiful a composition, and vocal piece of its genre you are likely to come across a lofty benchmark is set. It and “Another Day” (among others) remind me of California-based singer-songwriter Amanda Cross. Such is the clarity and potent spare feel, the imagery rich in honest emotions of the soul. Wrapped in sympathetic banjo, fiddle and piano it warms the heart that music like this is still performed.
Country, bluegrass and folk Americana are all embraced, as the duo speak of the Texas’ landscape, the aftermath of the wildfires on 2011 (“Highway 71”) and of “Leaving Kerrville”. This as they speak of how they were about to turn in to a convenience store, to say goodbye to three friends they had a brush with death. “Lady In The Elevator” likewise chugs along, and just as a sameness starts to creeps in “Who I Am” lifts the tempo and mood. Not least among the musical support one the track is that of fiddle (and banjo) that nails it. Superb. It sounds more like California folk country than anything else on the record, and not music termed as Americana
Back to the slow measured poetic beauty, “Evangeline” speaks of love, departing etc as they perform a song inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s story about her (Evangeline) and her lost love, Gabriel. Here the couple recognise how Gabriel lost his love too. Edging on through the album Alzheimer’s disease is the subject spoken of on “The Things He Saw”. Title-track “Before I Go” possesses an almost regal feel, as it paints a tapestry steeped in calming qualities. The duo’s understated music has an abundance of riches in the department and with the record containing 13 tracks nothing has been spared in a bid to service the listener, fully and showcase their worth.
Now we need Ordinary Elephant need to get themselves over here, tomorrow wouldn’t be a day too soon.
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