Album Reviews

U.S. Elevator

U.S. Elevator

Artist:     U.S. Elevator

Album:     U.S. Elevator

Label:     RTE 8

Release Date:     11/03/2015

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U.S. Elevator cite some formidable sources of inspiration on their self-titled debut: the Beatles, Neil Young, the Hollies and Gram Parsons among them. The similarities between U.S. Elevator and those artists isn’t all that clear, but there’s little doubt that there are some exceptional musicians involved with this album.

The band is the brainchild of Johnny Irion, husband and erstwhile musical partner of Sara Lee Guthrie, with whom he recorded five albums as a duo, in addition to a pair of solo efforts on his own. The other name of note is Tim Bluhm, the musical mainstay of the group Mother Hips, chief foil to his wife, Nicki Bluhm, and a noted artist in his own right.

Irion claims that the impetus for starting the band was a reaction to the softer sounds he and Guthrie purveyed as a folk duo, and that when he attempted to add a stronger rock sensibility to the pair’s approach, he was foiled in his attempts. Not that U.S. Elevator could be construed as a hard rock record. It’s not, but there is a determination here that reflects an attempt at rock ‘n’ roll relevance. Opening track “Pierre Lafrond,” sets a sinister tone, all edgy ambiance hinting at darker designs. Fortunately, things ease up from there, although it’s hard to avoid the notion that U.S. Elevator are ready to rumble. They show a certain kind of mettle after all, so while melody figures in the mix, that hard-edged attitude is never far from the surface.

Still, given that this is the band’s initial outing, there is an unsettled feel to the proceedings as well, the result of ideas perhaps not yet fully formed and yet to completely gel. Tracks like “Can I Make It Up To You,” “Sleep Ain’t Nothing But Death’s Brother” and “Where the Rubber Meets the Road” hint at a vague country rock feel that aims for Americana, while the giddier “Community Service” and a plodding “Cry For Help” suggest a desire to go in different direction. The unabashed rocker “Dangerous Love” may be the best indication of their actual essence, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, there’s an interesting set of songs to be enjoyed overall, indication that, pardon the pun, U.S. Elevators can only go up from here.

—Lee Zimmerman

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