Ordinary Elephant Honestly Fantastic
SPECIAL GUEST: SARAH MORRIS
VENUE: THE WARMING HOUSE
OCTOBER 9, 2019
All content by: Patrick Dunn
MPR's Radio Heartland station is a great local platform and resource for fans of acoustic, Americana and roots music. I recommend signing up for their newsletter, which got me interested in checking out Ordinary Elephant October 9th, at what I knew would be a perfectly suited venue, The Warming House. This cozy South Minneapolis neighborhood listening room absolutely delivered on sound and ambiance, both important factors in this show's delivery.
Special guest, Sarah Morris also added value with a 30-minute opening set that included new material from upcoming album "All Mine". She eased into her performance with "Empty Seat" showing off plenty of range and enviable tone. Morris came across as genuine in her audience interaction, providing some song and life insights that also generated a few laughs. "Helium", introduced as a love song for her family, contained her most dynamic vocal and was a standout. It takes courage to perform solo with only an acoustic guitar and microphone, which proved to be an environment where Morris really shines.
Want an inspiring example of "Walking the Talk"? First, give a concentrated listen to Ordinary Elephant's latest release "Honest" paying particular attention to the lyrics. Then, make an effort to read the band's full biography (not the short version) and discover how this award winning duo, Pete & Crystal Danmore, realized the safe path isn't always the right path and see what they did about it. Oh, and then give the album another listen backed by your new insight, which will bring these songs to life even more.
The Danmore's performance was next level, making it easy to see why they are International Folk Music Awards Artist of the Year for 2017. Their presence while classy, was humble yet commanding. I enjoyed and appreciated the words they shared before each song that provided important context making these moving compositions even more impactful.
Crystal names other folk artists (Gillian Welch, Anais Mitchell) as her inspiration and being from Louisiana has a southern influence that seems to have molded her vocal styling perfectly for this genre. With roots in the music town of Austin, TX, husband Pete's harmonies complete the Ordinary Elephant sound, not to mention he really knows his way around a banjo. Their songs are well thought out and purposeful, making me think of a line from the latest movie remake of "A Star is Born" where Bradley Cooper's character suggests that as a musician, in order to be heard "you've gotta have something to say!"
While I found all of their songs to be relatabe with plenty of wow and a-ha moments, one I found to be particularly clever is titled, "Worth the Weight". They shared how the idea for this composition developed from having to scale down their possessions to start this new life chapter as traveling folk artists. Items that made it onto the RV had to be worth their weight. In a play on the words, they also challenge you to think about whether some things in life are worth the wait.
(lyric) you will wonder if it's worth the weight / the worry that wears you down / half your life spent figuring out / how to make the other half count
I was moved by this performance and the example Ordinary Elephant is putting out into the world. I wish our society could simply hit the reset button and redefine its value system to better serve what's important for people to function positively and simply get along. Sometimes it takes a grass roots movement for a message to be known and perhaps that's exactly what this duo is trying to accomplish.