Artist: Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes
Album: Civilized Man
Label: Daniel Ellsworth Music
“Indie” is too broad a term. Critics and music fans like genres and categorizations because they make it easier to say, “Well, it’s kind of like…” I felt the need to address this because Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes’ debut album, Civilized Man, is not an “indie” album.
Civilized Man is technically indie in that it’s not under any major label, but Ellsworth’s aim is not for any critic accreditation. Ellsworth’s aim seems to be an inoffensive attempt at radio-friendly pop music. Not that there is anything wrong with that since the album’s main conceit is about stopping to pick the daises or whatever joyous people do. This is folk-pop rock-pop at its most sugary.
Some other music reviews compared Ellsworth’s work to that of Elton John. That’s hyperbole; his work, especially on the debut album, resembles that of solo Paul McCartney. During the early ‘70s, Paul’s solo work was at its most syrupy pop and Ellsworth seems to want to hark back to that. So, at best Civilized Man sounds like McCartney when he was trying to make innocent fun music and at worst sounds like James Blunt. The strong single “Shoe Fits” is infectiously catchy, filled with unmitigated joy and represents the album at its pop-esque best.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album never reaches those highs and at most is just plain pleasant to listen to, but there is the problem: The album just never rises above simply pleasant. There are highlights on the album other than the catchy single; one is the eighth track “Follow Me Home,” which includes some amusingly funny lyrics such as “I ain’t got much to offer besides some cheap red wine, I got some dusty floors and a .45.” Another highlight includes “Hieroglyphs,” which attempts to be The Rolling Stones doing a blues homage.
The debut album is a promising start; it just never rises above listenable. But then again, isn’t that what we ask of all music?
Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Salt Lakes will be playing at the Torch Club in Sacramento on Feb.14.
Give these tracks a listen: “Shoes Fit,” “Surrender,” “Wolf is Me”
For fans of: My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Wings