American folk heroes follow their muse to a place where incredible feats are routine every hour or so.
True to their title – which means much more than a mere name – TRAVELER’s records reflect the trips the ensemble’s leader Scott Jeffers has been undertaking, for a couple of decades now, from his Phoenix abode to ancient dwellings in the Old World, yet it’s the first time that one of their works – arguably, the shortest one – is explicitly given a “concept” characteristic. Still, the concept in question couldn’t be less loose, because the songs on “Phoenicia” aren’t limited to the region the album’s tied into, nor to larger Levant territory, but there’s a perfect logic in a wider Mediterranean map getting involved in this journey.
It’s not difficult to track the pilgrimage’s finale once Eric Zang’s hazy kaval solo of “Path To Ir Ha-Kodesh” has open the gates way to the exciting swirl of “Jeruselum” where the entire group – fronted by Jeffers’ weave of oud, guitar and violin – heaves a heavy buzz for the listener to enjoy and join in the dance until the commander’s voice weaves a riveting, riffs-abetted yarn, unfolds a six-string filigree and lets his vocalese soar, even though the accordion-encrusted gypsy abandon of “Roma Romania” and “Zenatogen” may seem like a Grieg-taunting brief detour before the platter’s centerpiece. This gemstone is “Lebanon”: a magnificent, electric epic celebrating Jeffers’ heritage and conjuring up images of a history-rich land through the shifting sand of tunes and styles – alternately tight and transparent in dynamic terms – deceptively instrumental as words emerge only past the middle of the composition’s 10-minute tapestry, a precursor to the slithering “Salaam” whose Eastern strum and tones are spellbinding.
Opener “Epta / Octo” promises as much when its folk melody is provided a paradoxically breezy, exciting gravitas, allowing TRAVELER to move to the Saracen cinematics of “Tripoli” with which this enchanting adventure truly starts. Starts to never really end since Phoenicia has long become part of eternity.