By day, Elephant Micah's Joseph O'Connell works as a folklorist, documenting the local culture of southern Indiana and other Midwest regions.
Not surprisingly, his songs seem to emerge from habits of travel and observation. Their account of the phenomenal world is as vivid as it is mysterious, equal parts ethnographic fact and fable.
For the past 14 years, O'Connell has quietly self-released his work on CD-R and limited LP, sometimes collaborating with the psych-folk imprint Time-Lag Records or other very small labels.
Despite the project's almost secretive status, Elephant Micah has repeatedly caught the attention of NPR, and has been championed by an impressive cohort of like-minded artists, including Jason Molina, Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers), Hiss Golden Messenger, and Hurray for the Riff Raff.
Over time, O'Connell's songwriting has grown in confidence and intensity, while maintaining its signature restraint. Where in Our Woods, the 12th Elephant Micah album and the first for Western Vinyl, is the fruit of this long-term creative progress. It will see release on January 20th, 2015.
You can listen to the first song off the record, "By the Canal," below:
A painstaking work of minimalism, Where in Our Woods is defined by its limited palette. The arrangements foreground nylon-string guitar and an antique portable pump organ. A stripped down-drum set (played by Matthew O'Connell, Joe's brother), a baritone ukulele, a toy recorder, and harmony vocals (sung by Will Oldham, a friend of and key influence on O'Connell) round out the sound.
This sparse ensemble leaves O'Connell's voice room to breathe, while elevating and magnifying the poetry of his songs. Throughout the album, O'Connell deftly transforms the stuff of everyday American life into a series of entrancing meditations on culture, nature, religion, and modernity.
ELEPHANT MICAH TOUR DATES
Sat. Dec. 6 - Raleigh, NC @ King's w/ Centro-Matic
Sun. Dec. 7 - Washington, DC @ DC9 w/ Centro-Matic
Tue. Dec. 9 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot and Saddle w/ Centro-Matic
Thu. Dec. 11 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade w/ Centro-Matic
More at http://www.elephantmicah.com/