September 4, 2019
Songs to No One, the latest album from Charlotte folk group Elonzo Wesley, transports the listener from the very first notes of track one, “Human Bean.” The recording is intimate and close, with every violin swell and pick of the guitar sounding like it’s in the room with you. The mellow, quiet, no-frills attitude to these tracks conjures the feeling of sitting around a porch with loved ones on a balmy Carolina evening as the sun begins to set. It is warm and comforting, like listening to some friends playing through some of their songs for the pure joy of it, blissfully unaware of the audience listening to the recordings.
Jeremy Davis, the singer-songwriter behind Elonzo Wesley, performs both as a solo artist and with a string band. This new collection of songs features the strings heavily, with upright bass, violin, and mandolin adorning the tracks, as well as smatterings of harmonies (see the gorgeous harmonies on the chorus of “Rock and Roll”). But what truly shines throughout is Davis’ growth as a songwriter. Although this album was written and recorded in a short period of time in order to have new material to showcase on his tour, the material is mature and as strong as anything on his last album, Spec, or anything released by his previous band, Elonzo.
All of the songs on the Songs to No One seem focused on a simple concept: the human experience. Lyrically, Davis seems focused on the lives of “regular guys” and life in the south. While “Human Bean” explores the similarities between raising plants and growing as a human, “Rock and Roll” talks about taking the time to examine your emotions and ensure that you are feeling human. Loneliness and isolation are key tenets of Songs to No One, as Elonzo Wesley appeals to the empathy of the audience to feel this sadness alongside them. “All God’s Children” contains some of the most compelling songwriting on the album as Davis, contemplates how all humans are equal regardless of circumstances, touching on the current migrant crisis and the harrowing effects of separating children from their parents.
Closing track “We All Gonna Die” breaks the stylistic mold of the rest of the album. Straying from the bright Americana-influenced tunes, this track begins with a cacophony of distorted and reversed guitar feedback and violin before a pulsating bass enters to drive the rest of the song. It is dark and somber, as Davis meditates on the inevitability of everyone’s death. A choir repeats “We all gonna die” throughout the track, in what sounds like an homage to one of Sufjan Stevens’ most heart-wrenching songs.
There is a comfort and familiarity found throughout the album. Anyone from the Carolinas is familiar with the long-standing traditions of folk and bluegrass that run deep in the state’s roots, and Elonzo Wesley borrows from these genres stylistically and lyrically. The acoustic instrumentation and focus on the everyman provides a recognizable ground to build the songs, and the refrains of these songs typically repeat just one or two phrases, making it exceptionally simple for an audience to be singing along on their first listen. This disarmingly relaxed and straightforward method makes Songs to No One feel timeless; it sounds as much like it came from the ‘50s as it does modern day.
After trekking around the country performing these tracks solo, Elonzo Wesley will be having their official release party for the album on September 6 at The Neighborhood Theatre, complete with the full ensemble featured on the recordings. Charlotte folk-rocker Brit Drozda will be opening the show.