Elliott Brood is not a singer-songwriter. He’s not a dreary Midwesterner signing sad folk tales. He’s not rock, he’s not elecronic, Elliott Brood isn’t punk. In fact, Elliott Brood isn't even a guy. Elliott Brood is actually a three piece from Toronto who refer to their music as “Death Country.” After the first few few seconds of the opener, “Twill,” the over-the-top self-description doesn’t seem that far off. It’s dark. It’s morose and it’s mean, but it doesn’t isolate the listener. It’s a Flannery O’Connor story put to music. I’m not sure why this band decided to use someone’s name to describe a trio, but the Canadians sure didn’t mind. Ambassador was nominated for a Best Roots & Traditional Album for the 2006 Juno Awards, although this album is hardly “Rootsy” or “Traditional.”
One of my favorite things about rock music is the possibility of instrumentation that shouldn’t work, but somehow works miraculously nonetheless. With that being said, there shouldn’t be a place in rock music for the banjo. Oh, but friends, do not forget, this is not rock music. This is “Death Country.” The banjo is one of my favorite instruments when used correctly and the boys of Elliott Brood use it perfectly. It not only finds itself at the forefront of this thrilling album, but it gives the record such a mysterious sound that it draws you in like a good murder mystery - and that’s what this album is. Ambassador sounds like the perfect southern-soaked murder mystery, full of whiskey, willow trees, romance, and confederate drum rolls like those in “Jackson.” These Canadians obviously wish they were born in Georgia during the Civil War, and if you didn’t know better, you’d probably think they were.
Casey Lefort, the singer, sounds a little like the dude from Gomez, if Gomez was from Georgia. We can only imagine the rasp in his voice that is so present in each song came from staying up all night reading Faulkner and drinking Bourbon before each recording session. And if I didn’t know better, I’d think this album was recorded on a porch swing in Macon.
There’s a lot to hate about a band whose gimmick is too contrived. But after listening to Ambassador, you can’t imagine that these three Toronto boys sat down before they started to write songs and discussed what they wanted to sound like. These three guys plugged in a guitar, picked up a banjo, and this dark-epic sound is what came out. Hell, the band’s website says that Stephen Pitkin plays the “suitcases and other percussion.” This album is a must for anyone who has ever romanticized the south. And trust me, at one point or another, we’ve all done that.
Six Shooter Records