"Hidden River Run"
"Wild Goose Chase"
"Queen of Rocky Ripple"
"Loop and Lil"
"Echo of an Echo"
"Still Life Blues"
Elephant Micah makes songs and tosses them, like messages in bottles, into the vast figurative oceans surrounding Indiana. Joe O'Connell has been performing and recording as Elephant Micah for 10 years, creating songs gracefully poised between the poetic and the plainspoken.
His songs offer "ideas of the rural," he says. He's "captivated by how people use music to interpret ideas of places." There's a lot of nature imagery in Elephant Micah's songs, and references to art and architecture, too. Birds such as herons and loons are a presence in these songs, as they were in Pekin, the small town in Kentuckiana -- the Indiana/Kentucky border region -- where O'Connell grew up.
Elephant Micah songs embrace the singer-songwriter tradition, but O'Connell says he's "looking for ways to subtly undermine [songs'] texture and sound aspects, or undermine your expectations of them." This approach adds dimension to the songs, which, while tuneful, folksy and emotional, are also poetic and mysterious.
O'Connell has been sharing his songs with the world through DIY touring, self-releasing his albums and working with small labels such as Maine's Time-Lag Records. By email, he explained the name:
"Elephant Micah is named after a preschool-mate of my brother, named Micah, who took on the name 'Elephant Micah' for reasons that no one could adequately explain. I guess 10 years ago it seemed like a good name, as a tribute to some sort of spirit of defying 'reality,' or using imagination to construct realities. This is helpful to be reminded of if you are a small-town youth with no sense that becoming a legitimate artist of any sort is possible."
It was a pleasure to bring Elephant Micah into the WNYC studio in New York City to hear what he had to sing and say, and to send his unusual sensibility out on the airwaves. O'Connell accompanies himself on guitar, and is joined on a few songs by musicians who were touring with him: Beth Remis (vocal, fiddle) and Mark Trecka (vocal, harmonium) of the band Pillars and Tongues.