ELLIOTT BROOD CD release party with CASTLE MUSIC and the JOHN HENRY’S Friday, (June 20) and with the BEAUTIES and JEN CASTLE Saturday (June 21), at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West). $12.50 advance. 416-?598-?4753. myspace.com/elliottbrood. Rating: NNNNN
The title of Elliott Brood’s latest recording, Mountain Meadows (Six Shooter), might lead you to believe that Toronto’s self-?styled “death country” trio has suddenly gone all sweet ’n’ sunny. But the pleasantly innocuous?sounding title is connected with a particularly bloody chapter in the colonization of America’s Wild West.
Mountain Meadows, in the Utah Territory, was the site of a Mormon-?led massacre of 120 unarmed men, women and children emigrating to California from Arkansas in a wagon train on September 11, 1857. How the horrifying events of 151 years ago wound up inspiring a quasi-?historical song cycle by Mark Sasso, Casy Laforet and Stephen Pitkin, who have no obvious links to Arkansas, Utah or Mormonism, is a bit of a mystery.
“We were just about to start working on the new album,” recalls the banjo-?picking and ukulele-?strumming Sasso, “when I saw an episode of this PBS television documentary series called The West that dealt with the Mormons’ settlement in Utah, and Mountain Meadows came up. What intrigued me was the juxtaposition of these horrible events happening at a place with such a pretty name.
“Our idea for the album wasn’t to try doing any sort of true historical recounting of the events. And we’re not a political band trying to make any kind of statement. We were more interested in the stories that didn’t get told, like what became of those kids whose lives were spared? That was our jumping-?off point.”
Listening to Mountain Meadows, what initially hits you on a gut level is Elliott Brood’s amped-up attack. They still operate with an acoustic sensibility as a suitcase percussion-?driven three-?piece, but on record at least, they roll like a full-?blown electrified orchestra.
“We’ve been heading down that road since our Ambassador album, after we started to figure things out with our Tin Type EP. On Mountain Meadows, we go back and forth between a spare acoustic sound and heavy amplification, depending on what the songs require. To properly convey the emotion of a song sometimes demands a bigger, heavier rock-?style approach, and I think we pushed all the levels on this album.
“There’s always some trepidation about moving into new, untested areas, and you wonder whether people will accept what you’re doing, but I’m happy to say the early response has been very positive.”
Of course, Elliott Brood haven’t yet tried out any of the new tunes in Utah. It would be interesting to see how the new stuff goes over with an audience of Brigham Young University history and theology students.
“Will they invite us to perform? Probably not. When Corb Lund asked us what our new album was going to be called and I told him Mountain Meadows, he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, great – give it to our people.’ After coming up with the title, I had some reservations about using it because we don’t want to be seen as a political band, but I think it works well.”