David Elias & the Great Unknown,
Half an Hour Away
(self-produced, 2001)

David Elias & the Great Unknown have produced a sweet and beautiful CD in Half an Hour Away. Recorded live in one afternoon, the album is a simple presentation consisting of Elias on vocals, guitars and harmonicas, appropriately and tastefully backed by Lisa Kelly on mandolin and Gary McArthur on flute and saxophone.

Elias' voice has a wistful and fragile beauty that is perfectly suited to the simple songs he writes. Using basic folk song structures and rhymes, his songs are charming and effective. He elevates those simple songs with his own lovely arrangements, played with sensitivity by his fellow musicians. Elias also handled all the production and recording duties. The album succeeds as a clear and uncluttered expression of one man's vision.

In his lyrics, Elias grapples with the usual meaning-of-life themes and relies on somewhat familiar metaphors such as water and roads. At rare moments I found myself thinking he was veering too closely toward clichˇ. (On "Heavy is the Water," the water goes down the drain a lot, for example.) But on the other hand, what could become ponderous is balanced nicely by the light and almost playful interplay of the guitars and flutes. And on some songs, his lyrics and his vocal phrasing are really lovely, such as on my personal favorite "Meet Me In Eureka," which is itself a terrifically lyrical line. In that song, and in other spots on the album, you can hear a little quirkiness creeping in (which is present already in Elias's voice). The humor gives the album a distinctive and personal flavor.

Also, the album is short, coming in around 38 minutes. David Elias takes us just "Half an Hour Away" as the title track promises. We're lucky to be taken to such a good and pure and simple place.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 17 November 2001