Scott Jeffers 2021
American ensemble harden their veneer to venture out and away from the plague of today.
True to their name, Scott Jeffers’ TRAVELER have always been taking the listener on arresting trips to different parts of the world, running the gamut of genres yet usually limiting such journeys to certain geographical areas and musical style. However, “Kings Of India” pulls all the stops to hop, in the most natural way, from Hindustan to Éire and beyond, distilling original and traditional melodies to folk filigree only to marry it, merrily here and sentimentally there, to heavy metal, among other sonic templates, and get away with everything because the album’s scope is truly breathtaking.
From the titular niraval to “Tomorrow’s End” – the platter’s deceptively pessimistic finale, a fairy-tale-like, translucent lullaby – what’s also stunning this time is the sound: clear and crisp like snow crust on a mountain slope, it spellbinds, rather than blinds, and when riffs puncture the sonic surface, there’s no escape from the richly detailed landscape. Perhaps, the vaudevillian slant of “A Little Unknown” in which Jeffers’ violin pays a visit to demimonde haunts of recent past, may feel too frisky for the record’s overall setting, but the oud-tinctured “Deeper” properly explores the pop reaches of folk. And if the reggae-propelled, Covid-referencing punk piece “Apocalypse” seems to break the exotic mold for good, “Fame Is A Monster” picks up, infectiously so, where Phil Lynott’s take on “Whiskey In The Jar” left off and appends a reel to the cut’s tail end.
The same sort of recklessness fuels the electric attack on “Whatever Tomorrow May Bring” – an aural report from the battlefields of yore – with guitars blazing, drums raving and fiddle raging, contrasting the spicy delicacy of “Pure Love” whose flamenco lace will fill one’s soul with elation, and igniting “Dragon Tooth” whose restrained Celtic-centric drama comes full of impressive dynamics and unbridled joy. And though “The River” swells quite slowly to flood the aficionado’s mind, the buzzing, quasi-orchestral “Under The Stars” offers an invigorating Middle Eastern dance. These incense-smoked grooves give the world all the fragrances required to forget the worry of our grief-stricken time: in other words, “Kings Of India” is a gift.