Eli Young Band,
(Carnival, 2005)

Level is the second disc released by the Texas-based Eli Young Band, their first release on the Carnival label. This group's music is known throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the nearby colleges. Their music, not surprisingly for a Texas band, spans the country and rock genres. They prefer the term "alt country" when describing their music, according to promotional materials. The tracks range from folksy ballads with a hint of rock to country and full-out rock. And it is all good!

The Eli Young Band's name originated in a similar fashion to the likes of Bon Jovi or Van Halen (or is it Van Hagar now?). The band's name comes from the two original members who started out back in 2000 -- Mike Eli (lead vocals and guitar) from Houston, Texas, and James Young (lead guitar and backing vocals) from Irving, Texas. The Eli Young Band originated as a duo but when they made their way to the University of North Texas in Denton (North of Dallas/Fort Worth), they brought Chris Thompson (drums) and Jon Jones (bassist) on board.

The most touching song on Level is "Everything Is You." This slow-paced piece is very emotional. Mike sings about how everything reminds him of a lost love. You can tell he still has feelings (both good and bad) for this individual. The chorus repeats "What did I do wrong? Nothing. I treated you like an angel" several times. He sounds like someone who was painfully dumped and has no clue as to why. I am sure many listeners can relate.

My favorite track on the album is kind of negative in a positive way. "When It Rains" is about being able to "cry right along with the sky." The melody is very catchy. It is a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll (but there is nothing Osmond about it). You can sample this song on the band's website. The line that rings very true states when you "start out depressed then everything comes as a pleasant surprise." Optimistic pessimists know exactly what he's talking about.

If there is a song that listeners might recognize, it would be "Small Town Kid." The video of the song isn't very memorable, but the song itself is. This song is, perhaps, the best introduction the band can make to new listeners. The first couple of lines Eli sings in the chorus -- "'Cause I'm a small-town kid, driven by rock music/ And some honkytonk in the mix" -- describes the band perfectly. On this track you can hear a little bit of the various genres you will hear throughout the CD.

In the promo material, Eli mentions, "Music is a great outlet; most of the songs on Level are a reflection of the band's personal experiences of the last few years." I think many listeners will connect with many, if not all, of the songs on Level. I do not think I am being biased since I'm from the general area as the band. I truly think this band could find some mass appeal beyond the South if given the chance. In fact, I would be surprised if they hadn't already. If you haven't heard of the Eli Young Band and you like music that spans country and rock, then you owe it to yourself to check out this band.

by Wil Owen
5 November 2005

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