Reviews:: Peter Elkas - Wall Of Fire

Halifax rock machine and herohill favorite Joel Plaskett and his band The Emergency are playing one show in Halifax this summer, and it just so happens to fall on Petra's birthday. So as part of P's birthday celebrations, were going to check out the show, and what a show it is. Joining Joel will be Halifax's own Jenn Grant and Toronto's Peter Elkas. I'd already reviewed Joel's latest album Ashtray Rock, and Jenn Grant's debut, Orchestra For The Moon, so I figured it would make sense to review Peter Elkas' sophomore solo album, Wall Of Fire.

Turns out this was a good move on my part, as I really enjoy the album. I'd heard of Peter's former band, The Local Rabbits, from their days of touring with the infamous Hermit, and I knew Elkas had done a number of shows with Joel in recent years, but I didn't get a chance to hear his first solo album Party Of One. As such, I can't vouch for the steez of that album, but this one relies on a large helping of old school soul throughout the album. Add to that some of Peter's pop sensibilities culled from his years of experience, and you have a fantastic sound.

Thanks to the fine work by backing band the semi-seriously named Elkaholics (Doug Friesen on bass, Gavin Maguire on drums and Jeff Heisholt on keyboards), you never feel like this is a rock band trying to play soul music, it feels/sounds authentic. Some of this might be due to the production work of the legendary Charlie Sexton who actually played a second set of drums for some tracks. Double drums, how can you beat that!

Coming into this album, I expected a soulful vibe based on what I'd read, but I have to say the right out of the box, I was was blown away by Fall Apart Again. It's all types of catchy, and plenty soulful - the organ on the chorus wouldn't be out of place on an Al Green song, or even at the Rev. Green's church on a Sunday morning. Peter's easy approach to this song, about a dysfunctional love that neither partner can let go of, feels like a natural fit. Paid Back is probably the rocking-est song on the album, as the guitar is featured more than on other songs, but Peter's voice retains that earthy, soulful quality, and the chorus is still mighty catchy.

I'll become the latest reviewer to say that the only thing sweeter than Sweet Nancy's title is the song itself. It's a beautifully understated hum-along that finds Pete in the role of a man trying to convince his ladyfriend to break up with him because he can't do it himself, even though he's already found new love. Lyrically it's probably my favorite song on the album as it manages to convey the complicated nature of relationships without clubbing you over the head with metaphor. The harmonica solo also doesn't hurt one bit.

The organ returns and the tambourine gets cranked up on the repentant Wall Of Fire, which also features Peter's soulful falsetto and a bluesy guitar solo. The uptempo finger plucks and drumming that open up Something Beaming are a good indicator that it's not all relationship doom & gloom for Elkas & Co. My Well Runs Deeper has a pretty straight-forward arrangement that makes it perhaps the most singer-songwriter-ish song on the album. But the simplicity works well for this cleverly written song about Peter's lack of commitment on the relationship front.

The 10 songs on Wall Of Fire deal with relationships. The highs, the lows, but more the lows. However, even when dealing with the lows, Elkas' songwriter voice is that of a guy who's always trying to do the right thing, no matter how tough the situation. This lends an air of hopefulness to the album, which helps explain why it's so likable. But perhaps more important than that is the fact that the album is just really an enjoyable listen. I mean, I am a guy who admits he likes Aesop Rock, so obviously I fancy myself as someone who enjoys some complicated lyrics, but sometimes it's nice to put on a record and just think "Wow, this sounds great". Wall Of Fire is just such an album.

Elkas' bio includes this quote from Ron Sexsmith: He has a wonderfully soulful voice and a great sense of melody that makes me want to write and sing better and try harder. High praise indeed, but he makes a great point about melody. The songs are so melodic that it is impossible to deny their appeal.

In case you can't tell, I enjoy this album quite a bit and recommend it highly. I'm looking forward to seeing how these songs sound live, check back for a full review of the show in July.

mp3:: Peter Elkas - Fall Apart Again

myspace :: website :: buy it

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