The members of Elliott Brood have always been time travellers. The Toronto trio writes songs steeped in history that feel very present.
They’ve done their share of actual travelling, too, these musical troubadours, acoustic guitars and banjos slung over their sharp suits as they barnstormed across Canada and beyond. For the new album Days Into Years it was century-old stories encountered an ocean away that brought them closest to home.
On the band’s first European tour back in 2007 they found themselves driving through the backroads of France. Vocalist Mark Sasso, guitarist Casey Laforet and drummer Stephen Pitkin, all enthusiasts of military history, raised on the harrowing stories of Canadians in the First World War, were simply looking to avoid the toll highways. Then they came upon a sign for a WW1 military cemetery.
“We’d been driving through Belgium and France, always passing by these historical war places and we decided to pull over and take this one in,” recalls Mark. “We saw all these Canadian names, and it really resonated with us, these young guys that had gone off to war. I knew all about it from reading books, but when you actually visit a place where the battles were, it hits you a lot harder.
“We said, ‘We need to write a record about it.’ ”
Days Into Years is Elliott Brood’s third full-length recording, the follow-up to 2008′s Polaris Prize shortlisted Mountain Meadows. Like its predecessors, including the 2004 debut EP Tin Type and 2006′s Juno-nominated Ambassador, it mines real history to connect songs that are deeply personal in a cinematic, narrative way.
Unfolding like a series of movie scenes, it looks to the future by starting with the past. The opening track Lindsay invites you into process of revisiting one’s life while cleaning out an old family home.
If I Get Old daydreams of making it through difficult times, be they in the trenches or a sickbed, and finding a nice place in the country to live out one’s final moments.
Days Into Years presents these reflections as a celebration of life, particularly on the perfect summer single Northern Air, a love letter both to the rural Ontario landscape and the memory of a departed friend whose spirit now resides there.
Recorded with co-producer John Critchley at Green Door Studios in Toronto and Avening Town Hall (a former army barracks) in rural Ontario, the album showcases a more amped up Elliott Brood that will put the knell to the “death country” tag that described their early work.
Now, the roof-raising rhythm stomp and mandolin collides with luscious harmonies, piano and, for the first time, electric guitar in a mix Casey admits is “loud, heavy and rock ‘n’ roll.” Since forming in 2002, Elliot Brood has become a Canadian music institution.
(The 2004 campus radio hit Oh, Alberta! remains a national treasure.) But after touring with acts like Wilco, Blue Rodeo, Corb Lund and the Sadies, playing festivals across North America, Europe and Australia and scoring the 2010 film Grown-Up Movie Star (for which they earned a Gemini nomination for Best Original Song), the band now also has a global presence.
With Days Into Years they will bring their music, and of one of the greatest Canadian stories, to the world. Elliott Brood are Casey Laforet (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass pedals, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel,vocals) Mark Sasso (banjo, guitar, harmonica, vocals) and Stephen Pitkin (percussion, drums, piano, vocals).
For more information, visit www.elliottbrood.ca.
Tickets ($15 advance and $20 at the door) at Bop City Records, the Waverley or by phoning 250-336-8322. Doors open at 9:30 p.m.
— Cumberland Village Works