When Jethro Easyfields and the Arrowheads hunkered down south of Indianapolis, it only stood to reason that the juxtaposition of country and city would rub off on the recorded results. Sure enough, a heady blend of country, blues, folk, roots-rock and even a little bit of punk makes this latest release, Elixir, go down easy. In the iPod age it’s one thing to enjoy a song or two, but to have the necessary attention span to take in an entire album in one sitting requires a little something special from the artist. Easyfields and company pull it off here, throwing enough variety into the album to keep you listening. That said, Elixir is a very cohesive collection of songs. The record kicks off on a high-stepping, straightforward note with “Howlin’ Mad.” Here a sprightly harmonica dances around a classic three-chord verse, while Easyfields propels the song with his roots rock-ready vocals. It’s followed by the slightly more measured, Stones-y “I Shall Win” which maintains the album’s momentum. The country-fried rock/boogie bug bites on “Slow Delivery,” a sure-fire barroom brawler of a tune. Bluesier elements come to the fore in “Sunup Sundown” which benefits from its sparse, acoustic-based instrumentation and focus on the vocals. The warm, front porch acoustic vibe Jethro and company bring to “Full as a Catalog” (dig those hippie-cowboy “whoo-hoos”) make this low-key number a bit of a departure — and a highlight.
Elixir ends on a slide-fueled slow burner with a spoken-word narrative, “Deer in the Cemetery.” This tune delivers a twist on the usual end-of-album wind-down: it’s spooky, fascinating and funny. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it involves Easyfields watching a deer in the cemetery (natch) while he (Easyfields, not the deer) gets “drunk with the dead.” The entire effort is well recorded and lives up to repeated listens. Taste this Elixir for yourself; you might not feel better in the morning, but at least you’ll know you experienced something worthwhile.
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion