Elephant Revival, along with their special guest Ben Sollee, brought an uplifting show of positive music and much needed distraction to residents and Hurricane refugees at Asheville, North Carolina’s New Mountain Amphitheater last Friday. Coastal residents flocked inland to escape the massive winds and rains pounding the shoreline and were grateful to find an outlet for their nervous energy on the dance floor. While attendees knew that they were in for a treat, they didn’t know that the bands were working up a special tune to share with them and the world.
Watching footage of the brave men and women responding to the crisis along the coast inspired cellist Sollee into action. Putting pen to paper and bow to string, he composed the tune “Cajun Navy,” inspired by footage of relief workers evacuating and defending the lives and homes of those most affected. Releasing the song on his Bandcamp page earlier in the day, Sollee pledged that he would donate all proceeds from the first week’s sales of the song to Oxfam America, an organization long known for its work aiding the poor and protecting our shoreline.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a problem. The song was so new that the bands hadn’t yet had a chance to practice it together. The weather had delayed arrival long enough to negate any opportunities to workshop the tune. The only remaining option, to try and whip up an acceptable collaboration in-between sets, seemed impossible with fans lining up to meet Sollee at the merch table to buy copies of his forthcoming release.
Luckily for everyone involved, a fan overheard the lament being shared by the artists and volunteered to man the booth for Sollee, allowing the artist to quickly rehearse with his hosts, who were eager to help with such a good cause. After what has to be a record setting song learning experience, the cellist sprinted out to the line of eager fans who had purchased his new disc and were waiting patiently for him to arrive. Having explained the reason for Sollee’s late appearance for his signing, his supporters were more than happy to wait for his arrival.
Here’s “Cajun Navy,” a loose and spirited affair that showcases not only the talents of both bands but the sincere joy they have making music for the world.
Though the song debut was the highlight of the evening, the show itself was full of wonderful moments. After Sollee’s opening set, Elephant Revival took the stage and quickly showed the elements of their sound that have won them an amazingly dedicated fan base. Their mixture of emotional power and lilting musical restraint is as unique as it is moving. It is not uncommon to hear the entire audience singing along in hushed tones, as the band winds their way through a catalog of intricate and hauntingly beautiful material.
Their newest album, Petals, features a more somber and mature vision of their sound, and alongside their sunnier earlier work, showcase a dynamic range that entrances audiences completely. They can strip down their sound for stunning a cappella pieces, such as the riveting “I Won’t Die Lonely”…
…before involving the crowd in a rhapsodical sing-a-long version of their classic “Sing To The Mountains.”
Multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Paine has recently begun sharing her long gestating cello skills in addition to her washboard, percussion and vocal duties, to startling effect. Check out her work on the instrumental “Flight Patterns Weather,” below:
The rest of the band was on point as well. Banjoist and pedal steel guitarist Charlie Rose adds a strong string presence to the ensemble, while bassist Dango Rose‘s tone manages to be punchy and dark at the same time.
Guitarist and vocalist Daniel Rodriguez was a mixture of smiles and eyes shut emotion as he sang his songs of motion and love while fiddler Bridget Law‘s magnificent violin work soared and dove through the arrangements like a bird in flight.
As is the band’s tradition whenever possible the opening act, Solleee was invited back out for a riotous closing number. The tune chosen for the night’s fun, “Grace Of A Woman,” an ode to the power women have to nurture us all, was clearly enjoyable for not just the audience but the musicians as well. Watch the fun below:
Though the audience was sad to see the end, the delighted cheers and smiles on their faces told the tale of their experience as well as any words ever could.