Throughout 2015 here at Country Perspective we’ve come across numerous fresh faces in the country and Americana scenes. While it’s always exciting to see an old favorite release something new, it’s even more exciting find someone new doing great things. One of the artists that has excited Derek and myself the most is 18-year-old traditional country artist Rick Elliot. Hailing from California, Elliot’s voice sounds like something straight out of the golden days of country music in the 60s and 70s. It’s only fitting he considers Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson two of his biggest influences. Elliot particularly reminds me of Haggard, which is praise I rarely throw out to an artist, let alone a new artist like Elliot. He’s so great that Derek and I both agreed that the “no EP reviews” rule needed to be broken to cover the just released EP from Elliot, titled West of the Rockies. And I’m glad because it’s once again another great offering from Elliot.
The EP opens with “Lovers & Liars,” a song about a man who can’t hold onto a wife or a job. The man has went through the blues and everything in-between. His life is so unstable that he has nowhere to go and no place to call home. It’s your classic country song about the blues. There’s plenty of steel guitar throughout this song, enough to make the most jaded traditional country fan smile. Elliot’s voice really shines in this song too. This is followed by the EP title track, which I reviewed several months back. My thoughts haven’t changed on it, as it’s a fantastic song. From my original review: It’s a self-reflection song where Elliot sings about life past the Rocky Mountains, from everyday life to love to drinking. Elliot sings about a lifestyle not too many country artists today sing about and it’s great to hear a song with a western theme again. The song itself and the instrumentation is great, but it’s Elliot’s voice that impresses me the most. His voice is deep, has great presence and is mature beyond his years.
Elliot recounts the days of a rowdy lifestyle in “Why.” The lyrics are quite strong throughout and Elliot’s delivery of them are dead-on. The instrumentation is of course great and it’s very much in the Bakersfield sound wheelhouse. See why I compare him to The Hag? Everything in this so flows together well to make one cohesive, enjoyable song. Elliot’s second single from the EP, “Let It Shine,” follows. I also covered this single when it came out and it’s once again another quality song. From my review of it: The song is about dealing with heartbreak and getting over an ex-girlfriend. Well the man didn’t just get over this heartbreak, but another heartbreak in a long line of heart breaks. Clearly the man is in pain and feeling sorrow. He just can’t seem to buck this trend of blues. Not only that he can’t shake these feelings, as he feels it wouldn’t be appropriate to “raise it up and let it shine.” Elliot says he would describe this song as “a little gospel with a sinister twist. It’s an upbeat country rhythm and screaming guitar make it a perfect driving song.” And I gotta agree with Elliot, as this song would great to listen to on a long drive.
“If I Agreed With You” is an upbeat, fast-paced song about a man and woman disagreeing. The man likes the country, while the woman likes the club. As Elliot sings, “if I agreed with you we’d both be wrong.” By the end of the song the man realizes that this relationship just isn’t going to work, so he leaves her and goes his own way. The steel guitar, electric guitar and piano combine to make one hell of a fun sound that will surely get you tapping your feet. While Elliot knocks the heartbreak songs out of the park, it’s nice to hear a more fun and lighter song from him too. West of the Rockies closes out with “Delta 88.” It’s a slower, darker feeling song about a man reflecting back on a woman from his past and the car they spent so much time in, the “Delta 88.” It’s the nickname for the popular full-size car, the Oldsmobile 88, which was produced from 1949 to 1999. Elliot really shows off his storytelling-chops with this song and after a few listens it’s easy to get sucked into this song. This is arguably his best, as it’s just complete in every way. As I said it takes a few listens, as I really didn’t grasp it upon the first listen. Once this song clicks for you though you’ll want to play it over and over.
Rick Elliot absolutely delivers with the West of the Rockies EP. It’s up there with Jon Pardi’s The B-Sides EP as my favorite EPs of the year. This EP is full of pure, traditional country goodness and gripping lyrics that will impress almost any country music fan. Elliot’s voice is mature beyond his years and is further ahead at 18 than a lot of artists twice his age. Not very many people are born with a golden voice like Elliot’s and thankfully he’s using it to make great music, as not every golden-voiced singer uses their talent to make the best music they possibly can. As I said before, Elliot is one of my favorite new artists I’ve come across in 2015 and I continue to look forward to hearing more from this promising artist. If for some reason you haven’t checked out Elliot, you need to change this quickly. Get familiar with the name Rick Elliot because he has all the potential to be the next big name to emerge in the independent country scene.