"Elkhorn is just two guys with guitars — Jesse Shephard on acoustic 12-string and Drew Gardner on electric — but the duo packs a lot of music into The Black River, an excellent new collection of six exploratory instrumentals. Takoma School fingerpicking, psych-ed out jams, brooding pieces that call to mind Neil’s Dead Man soundtrack, some hints of West African trance blues … Shephard and Gardner seem to have absorbed it all (and more), emerging with a beautifully unclassifiable blend. Riskiest of all here is their cover of Coltrane’s masterpiece of mood, “Spiritual.” But it’s an unqualified success, matching the original’s deep heaviness, as Shephard holds down an immovable center for Gardner to dance around. This is a River you’ll want to follow wherever it flows."
"The duo follows its own muse rather than any dictate of genre. Gardner starts adding complimentary parts that buzz and skirl from within Sheppard’s resonant picking patterns, but then as suddenly as a flipped switch his tone mutates from rustic to squiggly, flickering like Henry Kaiser might if he was using sound to evoke the bright colors of a tank full of tropical fish… It is the duo’s grasp of pacing and knack for integrating lessons not taught inside the guitar shop that make The Black River satisfying not just as guitar music, but as music full stop."
""A Robbie Basho-meets-Grateful Dead-and-Sonny Sharrock kind of hybrid with occasional dashes of krautrock and experimentalism mixed in for extra seasoning. Though drums and bass are absent, the tunes rock perfectly well when the guitarists are perfectly capable of kicking up dust on their lonesome… When the record's done, one again puzzles over why electric-acoustic recordings aren't more plentiful when the idea pays such rewarding dividends as it does here."
"I look upon [the songs on this album] as symphonic vignettes, musical poetry… Pictures more than anything, laid out in musical form. Music that speaks to you."
"Late night music to ease your mind and leave you with visions of beauty and stillness."
"The Black River just might force even the most jaded of hipsters out there to admit that they 'don’t hate guitars' after all."
photo by Brennan Cavanaugh