June 30, 2015
Longtime pals, Elonzo Wesley and Sinners & Saints, come together Friday night, with Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band and Everymen at the Neighborhood Theatre for their split 7” release, ironically titled “This Ain’t No Country Song.” Their use of acoustic guitars and harmonicas alone could easily place both bands neatly into a handcrafted, leather-adorned, mold branded within a generic country genre. However, these three gentlemen are far from generic. Why should they bother trying to affix a lid on what lies still untamed within their hearts? The fact of the matter is that both Elonzo Wesley (Jeremy Davis) and Sinners & Saints (Perry Fowler/Mark Baran) deserve more triumph and recognition than genre-labelling could ever offer. The diction of the title alone, a declarative incorporation of ‘ain’t’ with a reflexive ‘no,’ is as light with awareness as a full, carefree smile. That same cheeky, smiling insight creates much of the easy atmosphere of both the bands’ live performances. It’s exciting to have their momentum recorded onto a physical release.
The split starts with Sinners & Saints’ “Love to Give,” a cavorting battle song in the name of love. Baran dances and dips low bass notes gracefully from his gorgeous standup then twirls each melody lovingly back into the crook of his arm while Fowler sings the tale of a soldiering heart. He remarks, “Now, I’ve been wanted and I’ve been thrown away.” Ultimately, he chooses to never hide love away because love alone is all anyone could ever truly need, and all each of us ever really have to give away.
Friendship is a common thread woven throughout the four song release. Sinners & Saints’ “One Inch Worm” starts off this theme when Fowler foot-stomps, “You’re my friend that I’ll stick with til the end.” You know he means it. The song is warm with floating, tire-swing ease. The song flows sincerely with the assist of Fowler’s expert acoustic picking and crescendos into a blazing harmonica horizon. The tune is like a delightful afternoon spent amongst friends where you let the sun hit your face and feel yourself growing kinder from its warmth.
The detailed, ethereal cover art for “This Ain’t No Country Song” was done by Stephen Crotts. On it, Elonzo Wesley’s eyes are cast downward in observance, reflecting the more somber side of things Davis brings to the split. “Worse for the War” is an excellent use of Davis’ distant, heartbreaking voice which resonates over the deep, hollowed well of his guitar and a ghostly piano. Speaking of war, and of so much more, Davis’ phrasing is a thousand yard stare and its intensity is immediate. Singing again of friendships, this time in the haunting past-tense, Davis contemplates on the sweeter, more innocent times when he had “to my left a friend, to my right a lover” before the loneliness of life eroded something special away. Baran contributes backing bass and vocals that provide texture to the wafting wistfulness of the song. “This Ain’t No Love Song” is an exemplary tune because it is unapologetically in the same vein as the title of the record. It is a replacement song for all the lonely times that former love songs may have broken their promises and let themselves go awry. Elonzo Wesley gently rains down to wash away the polluted façade of anything less than genuine understanding. Davis cleverly brings the album full cycle when he tells a story: “I bought you a record, and it wasn’t no country song” bringing the split to a lullaby end.
Sinners & Saints are earthy elements; firmly grounded together by friends, dancing sweetly like branches in the wind, and rooted by love. Elonzo Wesley is a water element: Simple, replenishing and yet remarkably powerful. Because of this earth and water companionship, the 7” has built its own idyllic, sonic landscape. The two bands have constructed their own sustaining corner of world and invited listeners in to play on the twangy tree-swing tires or to sit quietly and reflect on the magnitude of life. So no, these ain’t no country songs. They’re the meaningful words, strings, and choruses of ballads that honors the relentless search for the friendships and the good music that just feels like home.