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The Elders - Live at the Gem (DVD)

Live at the Gem

The Elders

Pub Tone   DVD

Pub Tone Records
3656 W. 95th Street
Leawood, Kansas 66206

Available from The Elders' web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

After six CDs, it was time for this well-loved sextet of Celt rockers to issue another DVD - paramount, in fact, as audio discs don't always catch the full electricity of their flesh and blood performances. Not for nothing do the lads carry their "Arse-Kicking Music From The Heartland" banner proudly. This particular date opens with a rousing round of Michael's Ride, an energetic instrumental setting the players loose to raise cardiac rates and set toes to tapping. It's a perfectly appropriate gateway, as the key to The Elders lies in their impeccable chops and irresistible rhythms.

That cut gives way to a couple of rockers and then the band settles into a Fogelbergy Love of the Century ballad, laying out a warm multi-part vocal presence that's as much a trademark of the ensemble as the swooping fiddle and breezy accordion dominating their repertoire. Ah, but you only get a few minutes of such reverie and then it's off into another hipshaker, Turnpike, a showcase for Brent Hoad's violinic virtuosity and a damn fine tune in its own right.

Amidst all this, the Elders wear their American patriotism unabashedly, regaling the country's virtues and history in no shy manner, so none of this is a matter of old country partisanship by any means but rather a happy marriage of the two trans-Atlantic countries in a maverick tradition fully elemental to both. 1849 displays the trait in full measure as does the entire concert, an extension of their studio sound. The group's shimmering folk base is equally native to the shores of Eire, Angleland, and the New World, but so's the exuberant jam burn-down at the tail end of Devil's Tongue, drenched in top-notch musicianship, with high spirits born of the progressions rock and roll have brought to so many musics.

The Gem venue, a nice little hall, boasts a lineage, so it was a natural for a public television document, here presented in all its original footage but with a bonus: three cuts unaired when first released have been added, commencing with a jazzed variation of trad Celt airs, Brettski's Medley, the highlight of the show and a showcase for Brett Gibson, accordionist par excellence. Needless to say, bluegrassers will go wild for all the high-end chops from every member, complicated melodies in nearly the songs (except the ballads), and interlocking lines from the instruments and vocals, as enneagrammatic a blend as could be wished.

Breakaways are inserted, snippets of the crowd, which numbered many many Baby Boomers - some of whom took their kids along - as well as a healthy percentage of teenagers and young adults. It was surprising how many ticketholders happily boasted of the thousands of miles they'd traveled throughout the past year, forming a Deadhead brand of dedication, catching the band whenever possible. Given the unique sound and overall feel-good environment, that kind of devotion is easily understood. One guy, though, rendered a very apt appraisal: despite the evident inclusion of the modes purveyed and the shamrock-green base of Celtia, these guys really do play a style of music fused in a fashion no others have so far captured quite so well. Where older ensembles like Horslips ultimately failed to satisfy, The Elders are marrow deep in their unique art, and it's not only pleasing as hell but infectious.

Track List:

  • Michael's Ride (Shaun Davey)
  • Packy Go Home (Hoad / Dahlor / Phillips)
  • American Wake (Brent Hoad)
  • Love of the Century (Hoad / Dahlor / Phillips)
  • Turnpike (traditional; arr. by The Elders)
  • Men of Erin (Byrne)
  • 1849 (Michael Bliss)
  • Moore Street Girls (Byrne / Dahlor / Hoad)
  • Fire in the Hole (Brent Hoad)
  • Devil's Tongue (Hoad / Phillips)
  • Haverty Brothers (Byrne / Dahlor / Phillips)
  • Brettski's Medley (not credited)
  • Send a Prayer (not credited)
  • Buzz's Jig (not credited)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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