Disappointing.Traditional country-folk, veering into parody and pastiche.
Elliah Heifetz, from the City of Brotherly Love, born of Russian immigrants to the USA, is today’s musical cosmonaut. He’s a ‘First Generation American’, he grew up knowing poverty and struggle but he won’t be constrained by ties to the home(s} of Gamble & Huff, of Rocky Balboa or any such frippery that the writer can summon up.
This set of songs, in view of the eclectic nature of Elliah’s background, is really a very traditional country/folksy music record. Conspicuously ‘normal’, if such a thing can be said to exist. ‘Opener ‘First Generation American’ is a foot-tapping party song, a travelogue of his upbringing. It might be a little trite for some tastes but there’s the odd lyrical barb and twist to intrigue the more jaded listener. Still, musically it’s in danger of sliding into pastiche. Not a strong start – more of a warning sign, frankly. In consideration of the artist’s contractually required beard and plaid shirt, there isn’t much to say. Both are present but unremarkable. No more than six out of ten on that score.
Next up is ‘Living Proof’, which improves the musical situation at least. It’s an homage to his mother, or an imagined mother, who struggled with poverty and hardship but came through for their child. There’s flavours of a Gram Parsons vibe in the slow two-step shuffle. ‘Anxiety’ may well be heartfelt and honest, but it’s quite a strange way to express one’s anxiety. Again, too close to pastiche. For a matter so serious to Heifetz (we assume), it’s almost a throwaway non-song. Of these thirteen tracks too many are, from deciphering the fast tumble of lyrics, pastiches of the Americana cannon. Always sweetly arranged, and with Heifetz’s voice strong and clear, but something just doesn’t sit quite right. For instance, ‘Country Harmony’ borrows way too much, lyrically, from First Aid Kit’s ‘Emmylou’, and the sentiment therein is tough to take seriously. ‘Buzzin’ is a honky-tonk piano, bar room stomp about drinking and smoking, and it’s filled to the gills with cliche.
Heifetz does, under this thick layer of imitation, appear to be talented; he can certainly sing. Still, this record contains a large number of tired trope(s) that cloud his abilities. He shoehorns his hard luck, hard times Russian links into his songs at every possible opportunity. It becomes just too much to take the record seriously. Which is a shame.