Elkhorn :: Sun Cycle / Elk Jam

Elkhorn, the powerful instrumental duo of Jesse Sheppard and Drew Gardner are back with two slabs of transcendent goodness. Only this time around, they’re not just a duo. On these simultaneously recorded / individually released LPs, Sheppard and Gardner have brought along two ringers: the enigmatic guitar slinger Willie Lane and the freakishly talented percussionist Ryan Jewell (you’ve probably heard him with One Eleven Heavy, Ryley Walker and Chris Forsyth, among others). 

It’s a little hard to believe that this quartet hasn’t been jamming together for decades; the mind-meld between the musicians is incredible, as Sheppard’s ringing 12-string and Jewell’s always alert playing anchor the masterful weaving of Gardner and Lane’s electric lead work. Sun Cycle’s opener, “Altun Ha,” is a slow, smoky wonder, like Crazy Horse taking a Journey in Satchidananda. The whole of Elk Jam, meanwhile, is (as its title suggests) a looser, freakier affair – but it’s just as thrilling, with moments of pure ecstasy rising out of the tumbling rhythms. The whole thing is a total blast, beautifully recorded by Jason Meagher at Black Dirt Studio. And as good as the expanded Elkhorn sounds on these two records, the stripped-down duo remains terrific on the tracks without Lane and Jewell. Check out a lovely video of Sheppard and Gardner rolling like a deep river through “Song of the Son” below … words / t wilcox