Jim Lindberg - 'Songs From The Elkhorn Trail' Album Review
1. The Palm Of Your Hand
2. I Feel Like The Sun
3. You're Not Alone
4. Hello Again
5. Don't Lay Me Down
6. Not One Of Them
7. Blood On Your Hands
8. Good Enough
9. It's Only
10. The Basement
11. On Fire
12. Long Way To Go
Jim Lindberg has been fronting Punk legends Pennywise for just over thirty years now. In that time he’s become the bands main lyricist after the passing of bassist Jason Thirsk. Lindberg has used the medium to create a forum for positivity and creating a sense of mental toughness. These traits come to the fore with the release of his solo album.
The dozen songs that make up the release aren’t too far removed with what you would expect from the solo work of the likes of Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan. Here Punk isn’t just about fast paced guitars or incendiary lyrics spat with fury. It’s about taking that spirit and using it as a model for a personal credo, to strap on an acoustic guitar and follow the “three chords and the truth” model of attack.
Opening up is 'The Palm Of Your Hand', an upbeat groove that really gets its hooks into you. There's a nice ramshackle feel to it like it's been thrown together on the fly but it's obviously been worked on and had a great singalong chorus that gives you an extra bounce to your step. 'I Feel Like The Sun' and 'You're Not Alone' both channel the ghost of Hank Williams to great effect.
'Don't Lay Me Down' sits comfortably in the middle of the album and switches to a more melancholy mood. There's a string arrangement that's quite bare but works so well. The song isn't overwhelmed by it which gives it a nice punch when it takes the solo. It's a simple tale of loss that hits home so hard after the past few years. "Don't lay me down, don't fall asleep, I'm drowning and I can't speak / Don't wake me up, don't fall asleep, leave me happy in your dreams" has the emotional effect of an asteroid crashing into the planet. Is it me or is it dusty in here?
Thankfully 'Not One Of Them' picks the broken mood back up and 'Blood On Your Hands' is simply rousing with it's marching beat, before the strings come back with 'It's Only'. At least this time they're here to embelish rather than break your heart. 'The Basement' catches you unawares with it's drum machine beat while 'On Fire' is urgent without being frantic. As farewells go 'Long Way To Go' fits in just perfectly at the end of the album, capping everything off just right.
Lindberg's voice feels warm and familiar on the ear, like a friend who's trying to encourage you to do something you don't quite want to do. Guitar wise it's an acoustic that carries the album on, its main musical narrative thread. Ted Hutt who's played with Gaslight Anthem and Dropkick Murphys is a great guitar foil to him, while David Hidalgo Jr. (Social Distortion) on drums and Joe Gittleman (The Mighty, Mighty BossToneS) on bass carry the rhythm section like they've played together for years.
“Songs From The Elkhorn Trail” is not an overly complicated album arrangement wise but it works really well. Not every album needs to reinvent the wheel, sometimes you just play to your strengths which is exactly what Jim and his friends do. It's a spiritual successor to Joe Strummer's "Streetcore" (man, a Joe and Jim double header tour would have been so brilliant) tackling similar subjects with a similar empathetic approach to life. Throughout its run time it reminds you that no matter what's happening in this big old world of ours, we're all here together, for better or worse so let's help each other along. We'll all be the better for it.
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Review - Scott Hamilton