Local band Elder Grown’s new record was an effort years in the making, and it has the proud approval of every band member. It’s a true local offering, with the bulk of the release recorded where most band members live – the infamous “Elder Grown House,” located on 7th Avenue on Durango’s Southside – a house band members recently vacated. It’s a genuine product from the three Hoffman brothers – Josh, John, and Paul – along with Sam Kelly and Brandon Clark.
It’s also a record where there was a true learning curve with the recording process. A big learning curve, as the band had to learn all about recording software and studio trickery as the album was being recorded. Lay down a track, love it, learn something about the arrangement within the song, figure out ways to improve it, see something in the recording software they overlooked, and record it again. This was all done with a moveable vocal booth built in Josh Hoffman’s apartment, but then moved to band headquarters on 7th Avenue, where it was placed by John Hoffman’s bed. After most of the tracks were recorded and then re-recorded, the finishing touches came from engineer Scott Smith and his studio, “Scooter’s Place.”
“We’ve been working on this album, as is, probably about two years, and we probably did it three times over, with Josh’s studio,” said middle Hoffman brother John. “We kept learning more as we were teaching ourselves recording, and then we kept re-recording things. New songs would pop up, and we’d want to put them on there.”
The band’s growth, and this recording, all happened under this writer’s nose. I lived next to the Elder Grown House for three years and became quite friendly with the Hoffmans, other band members, and the crew of friends and fans that made their way around the house. You couldn’t pick a better band to live next to, because for the most part, they practiced during the day.
It’s a jam-band package that features ska, funk, reggae, and hip-hop, genres that morph from note to note and song to song. The tunes exceed the commercial radio, album-oriented time requirement of three minutes, and the whole release remains hard to define, which is fine for a band that has been living comfortably in the jam-heavy festival world for years.
The record kicks off with the dreamy, “Feel You in the Sun,” a lazy and drifting 7-minute cut that moves from loose psychedelic to an even looser reggae riff.
“I Like You” finds the hook right in the chorus; it punches and moves.
“Dreamin’” kicks off as a typical R&B number, shifting gears immediately to showcase hippie-driven hip-hop.
“Rolling Thunder” is the cut of the album. Standard rock and roll fare casually gives way to an animated, saxophone-driven riff, a reverb-drenched guitar solo, and then back to that animated bouncy riff. The band is inadvertently channeling Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo and, for a slight second, 2-Tone Ska.
The closing track, “Strong like a River,” sums up the whole album, reflecting a multi-genre, loose rock record perfect for jam culture.
They’re all great players, but what sets this album apart is the tasty saxophone of Kelly, who contributes heavy solos, slight fills, and bits of saxophone that dot the album with sounds that live under a song’s melody or peek out behind the guitar. It’s a contribution that sets the album apart from jam-rock fare.
Bands get sick of their own product after toiling over it for weeks, months, or, in this case, years. But the general vibe from the band is positive.
“I love it,” said John. “It actually is something that I’m so excited (about). We have a good quality product out.”
Elder Grown has some miscellaneous shows throughout the summer, including a return to the Rhythms on the Rio Festival, which will be held in August in South Fork, Colorado, and already have full-length album number two in the works.