Elijah Ocean “Back To The Lander” (New Wheel Music, 2019)

From sea to shining sea, Elijah Ocean certainly thinks America is beautiful. Also poignant and filled with as much longing as hope. For his ninth album he takes a different direction, and reflects on the country he has endlessly crossed promoting his work and playing for others. So we start on the east coast in New York State, and end up in California on the west. But that journey is not linear, it covers endless geographical mentions. If you wanted to sit down with pen and paper, you would surely not be far off a full house in a game of state bingo.

From Poughkeepsie to Pasadena, this is both nostalgic and a travelogue (is there a word that combines both?) Ocean’s stock style normally compliments his large hats. Whilst a long way from bro-country, his blue jeans and barstools approach tends to honky-tonk. On ‘Back To The Lander’ though he settles into much more contemplative mood, think peak 70’s Jackson Browne, even the longings of Dan Fogleberg. Starting jaunty with the title track, the album soon settles into a trio of gorgeous reflection in ‘Came Down From Denver’, ‘River Of Red’ and ‘Tom’s River’, swathed with pedal, slide and love. The second half of the album has simpler production, but colder tones ending in the laconic ‘Pasadena’ of wistful sadness. Every single song title concerns a place name, mode of travel, direction, nature. The whole album is indeed a journey through both his career and life, immersive, pastoral and deeply personal, his purple mountain majesties above his fruited plains.

Travelogue of nostalgia

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