Written by James Killen
I had the good fortune a few nights ago to catch Ordinary Elephant at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, touring in front of their latest CD, “Honest”. The evening felt doubly blessed because Libby Koch and Chuck Hawthorne were present to open up by swapping a few of their tunes. Libby and Chuck each have a disc coming out in the near future as well.
Libby kicked it off with “Burden” and included “Redemption” and “Naomi” in the set that alternated with Chuck. Chuck for his part lent his tremolo voice to “Leaving Amarillo”, “Silver Line” and “Welding Son of a Gun”. Libby and Chuck, who have been an item for a few years now, shared that Pete and Crystal Damore (Ordinary Elephant) had actually introduced them to each other and that they were quite proud to be invited to play a part in the CD release tour.
For those that are not familiar with Ordinary Elephant, they are the duo of Crystal Hariu-Damore and Pete Damore and they write and play a unique form of folk music all their own. They packed up and left their Houston home some time back to live a rambling lifestyle in an RV with their four dogs. They travel, gaining perspective on America, writing songs and playing venues, as they follow the path they have chosen.
The Damores have a sound that is low key and harmonious with their voices so entwined that they play the whole set facing each other to follow every nuance. They cover every song on “Honest” although not in the same order as the disc. Crystal, who writes most of the lyrics, added some brief commentary to help the listener get a better perspective on the songs. Elephant took on some pretty heavy subjects with this disc discussing prejudice, depression, terminal illness, PTSD, and guiding children through an ever more complicated world. Crystal has a way of seeing a situation in life and creating an entire life story for a character that she builds for her song. Pete switched between banjo and guitar and sang harmony.
“Honest” is an amazing collection of songs and I hope to do a full CD review under another title, but suffice it to say that hearing those compositions live was an exceptional treat. Toward the end of the set, Libby joined Crystal and Pete on stage to sing back up on “Best of You” from the last album, followed by “Jenny and James” from the new one. Ordinary Elephant did “Thank You”, also from “Before I Go”, as an encore.
If you have seen Ordinary Elephant, you know what I’m talking about when I say that their sound is unique. You also have probably listened to the lyrics over and over again to fully absorb the potent poetry, therein. If you have seen them live then you are familiar with the welcoming warmth that they exude from the stage. If you haven’t seen Ordinary Elephant, I’m really not certain what you are waiting for.