So it’s cliché. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. That we live in an era of blinding speed, of 160-character limits and fiber optics and dizzying TV ads, of instant gratification in every conceivable industry niche. That we are the generation of the immediate. That we’d much prefer to soak in the brine of pseudo-social media than in a nice, piping hot bath. And so it has become this seemingly impossible task to just slow up a sec, to take that extra minute with our paper cups of morning, pre-office coffee and just, you know, take in the scenery.
And yet there is hope, or so it would seem. Amid the din of modernity comes the sound of a new idea, an idea in the not unattractive shape of a band by the name of Daniel Ellsworth and The Great Lakes. Or, more precisely, in the shape of the honest but audacious sound that has come to define their music. Now, mind you, we’re not talking about simple reminiscence here, and Ellsworth’s songs are certainly not throwbacks, but there’s a sense of (dare I say it?) timelessness and even wonder to the melodies and the distinctive voice that drives them.
Though they now call Nashville their home, the members of The Great Lakes hail from across our great nation (Joel, drummer, Wichita, KS; Marshall, bass guitar, Columbus, OH; Ricky, regular guitar, Huntsville, AL; Daniel, everything else, Minneapolis, MN), bringing with them (besides their clothes and stuff) a unique mélange of stories and the diverse cultures of their respective hometowns. Their upcoming, self-produced album, Civilized Man, (slated for release May 2011), recorded by Mark Nevers (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Andrew Bird, Yo La Tengo) at Beech House in Nashville, TN, is itself something of a departure from the singer / songwriter category of the rest of Ellsworth’s catalog. As the first official release from the band, it represents a fresh start musically- a whole new set of influences, from The Talking Heads to Wilco, is welcomed into the mix.
When all is said and done, what most of us need is a distraction from distraction, a reminder of the things (and the people, for some of us) that we love. Daniel Ellsworth and The Great Lakes, through the songs and through the stories, provides just that. Theirs is the sort of music that suggests (maybe without actually coming out and saying it) that you stop and smell the roses or, if you really, truly can’t afford to spare those precious seconds, then at least to enjoy the pleasant, rosy blur that they form in your periphery as you sprint by.