Published Sep 17, 2020Elliott BROOD have always been, what we might call, "musical" time-travellers. The Southern Ontario folk-rock trio's knack is creating works that are deeply immersed in history, offering dark glimpses into the past — their 2008 breakout album, Mountain Meadows, revisited the aftermath of the Mountain Meadows massacre in Utah, while 2011's Days into Years took inspiration from an excursion to WWI military cemeteries in Europe. With Keeper, members Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet and Stephen Pitkin deal with their own battlegrounds and emotional peaks and valleys, making for tale-telling that hits closer to home.
Driven by the carefree breeziness of the mandolin, "Stay Out" was purposefully crafted by the band to be a foot-stomper, but their personal lyrics, touching upon the difficulties of having children, reveal their genuineness as human beings. They sing, "And I can't go home / I wanna stay out a little while" — a longing for a respite from their children that most parents would be too ashamed to confess. For a song meant to be played with the sun out and the convertible roof down, there's a lot of depth here. This too can be said about "Full of Wires," one of the tracks that tackles the recurring subject of family relationships: the complications that arise, but also the importance of forgiveness.
On the symbolic "Bird Dog," with its edgy undertones, and the 1950s-esque "No Way Out," Elliott BROOD continue to push musical boundaries, moving beyond their acoustic roots by experimenting with new sounds and palettes. The synth-accented "The Coast" — mixed in by producer Sylvia Massy, who has famously worked on albums by both Johnny Cash and Tom Petty — is also telling of the band's desire to add a few twists. For fans of the band's earlier works, there is still the quintessential BROOD-like fashion throughout — rollicking strings and thrashing drums are not dismissed — but tracks like these adopt a fresh energy that's worth embracing.
Though still spirited in nature ("Out Walkin'" takes us on an airy jaunt), Keeper is one of Elliott BROOD's most reflective works thus far. Just look to the questioning in gentle tracks "A Month of Sundays" ("Will I be seeing you less and less?" and "Oh Me" ("What have we done, dear?"). The album stands out as a series of intimate stories tied together by matured family men. Dancing between melancholy and tenderness, the hardships and blessings of long-lasting relationships, it's like letting light pour into a dark room. (Six Shooter)