Album Review: Tim Ellifritz’s Self-Titled Effort

Tim Ellifritz delivers an impressive album with his self-titled effort: Tim Ellifritz. With sonic textures that demand attention, the album is mainly an instrumental push and pull among three main instruments: guitar, bass, and drums. While there are scarce vocals featured on this record – Vinnie Leddick provides superb vocals on “Life” and “Pandemania,” tracks nine and eleven, respectively – the skill with which the songs’ instrumentation are executed more than makes up for this fact.

Oftentimes, storytelling in a song can become lazy, or redundant, and the absence of words to drive a narrative forward puts the onus solely on instrumentation. There is no lack in Tim’s ability to tell a story solely through music, as easily seen right from jump-street. “Last Days of May,” the opening track, is a solo acoustic piece that evokes feelings of starting anew (apropos for an album-opener), as well as a sense of looking forward to the future.  Wasting no time to switch lanes, Tim changes things up with “Padded Cell” (track two). Although this song features an acoustic intro – which was a very helpful device in bridging the previous song – we quickly catch our first glimpse of how well Tim has studied his instrument. With chaotic tension created by beat groupings of three (3) and five (5) throughout the song, and piercing but effective electric guitar work, this song brings to mind scenes that are rife with anxiety.

Anyone listening to this record will easily see Tim’s tendency to switch from higher energy music to more contemplative sounds, such as in the songs “Sunflower” (track three), and “Sweet Dreams” (track eight). Some of the songs harken back to progressive rock acts the likes of Jethro Tull [“Anthem” (track five)] while others, with their major pentatonic riffing, reminds me of southern rock bands such as The Allman Brothers [“Vibe” (track six)]. There is a myriad of musical components this listener could focus on when writing this review, but perhaps the underlying tendency I’m hearing in this record is that Ellifritz always seems to know how long to drag out and subsequently resolve musical tension in his songs.

As mentioned earlier, “Life” and “Pandemania” were the two songs on this album that contained vocals. Of the two, I strongly preferred the former. Leddick’s voice soared to points I often thought would threaten to crack but never did. With an impressive delivery of vocals, Leddick easily displays the same caliber of skill with his voice as Tim does with the guitar (and mandolin on “Sunflower”). “Pandemania,” while it was well-crafted, dealt with topics surround the COVID-19 pandemic. It was admittedly a bit hard to listen to as this listener has severe mental fatigue regarding this topic. If you had asked me what I thought would end this particular album, never in a million years would I have guessed it to be a “chicken pickin’” country song. Nonetheless, Tim has shown once again that you never know what may come out of his instrument. Very unexpectedly so, this song, with its stark and sharp genre shift, was a brilliant way to end the overall album.

It’s hard to make a progressive rock danceable; the genre lends itself to being one requiring active listening rather than passive, but I feel Tim does this quite well. Not only that, but the superb playing Tim has recorded is extremely well complemented by the sounds produced by James Martin and Walt McKibbenn on bass guitar, as well as Tyler John Peter and Jeffrey Britton on drums. The entire band is extremely talented. While I do make the concession that this album might be enjoyed more by those who not only listen to progressive rock but are musicians of the genre as well; Tim Ellifritz has surely made an album that I feel is definitely worth listening to, as well as enjoyed, by many.

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