Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Elephant Micah profile: Music His Way

People are gushing about Elephant Micah's distinctive folk sound

"He's a genius. I'm glad you're writing about him," said Nathan Salsburg, a self-professed "superfan" of Elephant Micah.

The Louisville record producer and archivist is super happy to describe Elephant Micah's songs:

"They endure in the way Napoleon's dying breath endures, like gaseous dispersion in the atmosphere," he gushed. "They are a reverberation of the first divine exhalation."

He's describing the homemade folk songs of Joe O'Connell, a Kentuckiana native who prefers to emphasize his music over much biographical analysis.

After eight years and even more recordings, O'Connell is getting more and more people to hear his music, on his terms.

O'Connell, who has built up a core group of collaborators between here and Bloomington, distributes music through the Luddite Rural Recording Cooperative.

As Elephant Micah, he records much of his music on cassettes and never set up a MySpace profile, though he makes some music available for download on his website and generally encourages the Internet to help promote him.

It almost sounds calculated, but as he told the blog You Crazy Dreamers, "I just really can't stand the word 'MySpace'."

Salsburg recently invited O'Connell to contribute vocals to a recording session with singer Glen Dentinger.

"He had the headphones on, doing his harmony vocal on Glen's track - only he could hear the master but I started cringing, because I thought there was no way his weird procession of notes could possibly line up with Glen's singing or the band's playing," Salsburg said. "Then we listened to the playback and it was brilliant. No one else would have though to do what he did."

O’Connell’s music also drew praise from the noted Howard Wolfson, who, when he isn't trying to get people like Hillary Clinton elected, runs the music blog, Gotham Acme. Wolfson named Elephant Micah’s 2008 album Exiled Magicians as one of his favorites of the year.

“He’s just a guy with a guitar, making music that could tear your heart out," Wolfson wrote. "Tell your friends how wonderful he is.”

O’Connell is returning to Louisville to promote his latest album, Echoer's Intent. The self-booked tour will take him through 20 states in two months. He'll play a show Friday (along with with Joe Manning, Time & Temperature and the aforementioned Salsburg) at the Lounge.

“Louisville is where I first started trying to play gigs, when I was 17 or 18," O'Connell said. "It is definitely one of the places I feel most musically ‘rooted’ in, and that sense has been renewed recently.

"It's particularly cool to reconnect with a lot of the people who were around ten years ago, in what was for me the very early stages of this music.”

c. 2010 Velocity Weekly

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