The Elms with The Harlequins

Dec. 18 • Southgate House

Dec 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm

In a game of musical word association, “Seymour, Indiana” would nine times out of 10 trigger the response “John Mellencamp.” But in that tenth round, perhaps the person on the receiving end of the clue would be a savvy music head with a penchant for seeking out obscure but great Americana bands that combine classic heartland Rock, a smattering of Brit Pop, sterling sibling harmonies and an assbasket full of raw, unbridled passion. For that rare and devilishly clever tenth person, the answer would be “The Elms.”

The Elms began in 1995 under the name Just Visiting and self-released a couple of discs. At that point, the group consisted of just vocalist/guitarist Owen Thomas and his drummer/brother Chris. From the outset, the duo aimed their music and message at the Contemporary Christian market, which earned them a contract with renowned CCM label Sparrow. With that move, the Thomases retooled themselves as The Elms and turned out a trio of nifty discs (2000’s eponymous EP, 2001’s Big Surprise, 2002’s Truth, Soul Rock & Roll) while touring relentlessly throughout the region and around the country.

The buzz that The Elms generated caught the ear of Universal South, which signed the band in 2005 (by that time, they’d added guitarist Thom Daugherty and bassist Nathan Bennett). The Elms’ major label debut, 2006’s The Chess Hotel, was their first truly secular album and earned the band comparisons to everyone from the Black Crowes to Oasis to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. The Elms’ latest anthemic, blue-collar swaggerfest, The Great American Midrange, is rightly inspiring even more effusive praise.

With this kind of heat coming from their studio work, it’s clear that The Elms approach every live gig with the blazing intent of a demolition crew, knocking down whatever’s standing and wildly impressing whoever’s watching.

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