Scott Jeffers Traveler 2019
American folk-rock troupe’s eclectic trek across Europe and Asia brings heavy fruits of flawed delight.
Although the cover of “Out Of The Dust” suggests Jeffers’ journeys took him to Egypt this time – and indeed it was a trip to Middle East that preceded lockdowns and other woes of late – Scott also visited Scotland in 2019 to enrich the experience which resulted in "The Celtic Collection" and uncovered enough cultural links to ensure his ensemble’s next album would arguably be their widest-ranging of all and yet entirely organic – as one must when historical perspective comes into play. And “play” is an important factor here, what with juggling of styles on display, shifting of emotional balance left and right on the intensity scale, and looking for mirth in the sheer seriousness of marrying folklore and rock.
The listener won’t have to go far in search of magic in this global village, as majestic montage of genres is what drives Jeffers’ violin from African desert to Caledonian glen within the first minute of opener “Pipes Of Pitlochry” – before dance beats propel his throat-singing towards an irresistible jig where heavy riffs and a sophisticated a cappella polyphony await courageous adventurers who may find the same approach in “Mangar Ganzorig” too close to “Bad Romance” as delivered by THE HU at a souk. Just as distantly familiar should sound “Seven Sisters” that evokes the memories of “Darkness Darkness” and throws the mesmeric melody into the hard-rock-solid mythical light to lead the instrumental flow to delirium. But if the cinematic balladry of the album’s title track has a fairly expected, Aladdin-patented sweetness about its rippling Eastern filigree, the gypsy jazz tinge of “Blue Café” seems genuinely surprising, and Django would approve the dulcet tone of Scott’s voice and Tyler Mount’s six-string lace, the European angle intensified further on by the nuanced “Dead Sea” which is given a catchy klezmer swirl.
And then there’s the Rosetta-Stone-hefty reggae of the trumpeting-infused “Elephant Drum” and the sharp skank of “Mr. Wizard” that will flower on stage and can exorcise evil spirits out of jinni even without guitar shredding, while the oud’s twang in “Dahab” does the same in a delicate manner, and the bass-spanked and falsetto-spiked electric attack of “Highland Clan” struts a belligerent swagger in a rather anthemic way. However, despite a brief drum-fest and swaying choruses, the power-metal-molded “Stand In The Light” turns out to be an anticlimactic finale to this eclectic record, rendering “Out Of The Dust” arrestingly interested, albeit as flawed – as any human, down-to-earth deed should feel.