Reviewed by Mae Hunt
Elijah Ocean’s latest album, Born Blue, is about as classic country as it gets. The catchy album is loaded with pedal steel, fiddle, electric guitars, and – of course – Ocean’s notable, twangy vocals. The outcome is a straight up country album inundated with (as Ocean acknowledges in his interview with us)Bakersfield influence. The Bakersfield sound, a subgenre of country developed in the 1950s, takes each song back to the roots of traditional country.
The album has many crowd pleasers, from The Ice Machine to Thirty Five, both of which I’ll touch on shortly. First, however, I want to talk about the standout title track, Born Blue. The song is downright fantastic – centered on a feeling of deep loneliness, but enveloped in an upbeat harmony. Ocean sings, “Ever since I learned to crawl I’ve had a lonesome feeling deep inside.” He takes a sad feeling, straps on some electric guitar, steel pedal, and twangy vocals, and creates an overwhelmingly catchy tune.
Another top song, perhaps my favorite on the album, is The Ice Machine. Slow and apologetic, this unique tune matches the unique situation described in the song – a man confides in an ice machine about cheating with a woman down the hall. It’s a creative take on a common trope in music today.
While Ocean doesn’t shy away from the difficult feelings of loneliness and abandonment, he offers plenty of cheerful, even comical, tracks as well. Living to Love You throws listeners into a tidal wave of fiddle, banjo, and guitars and shares the tale of a man hopelessly in love. The romance genre prevails in the final song of the album, The Long Haul. This song reveals a sensitive side of Ocean, who sings in his classic southern drawl, “Honey, I will always be your man…”
Finally, Ocean doesn’t neglect humor (albeit sometimes dark). Another fan favorite, Thirty Five, is an upbeat song about staying up too late and acting too young. This song tells the story of someone who takes his gambling habit too far, only to awake the next morning with an empty pocket and a harrowing hangover. The Writing on the Wall is about mistakenly spending the night flirting with a woman who turns out to be a prostitute.
The album truly has something for everyone. Other hits include Honky Tonk Hole and In a Perfect World, both classic country. And while this album leans heavily on the traditional side of country, Ocean said he’s going for a “different vibe” on his next album by pulling rhythms from other genres. If you’re interested in what Elijah Ocean has in store next, follow along Ocean’s journey at elijahocean.com and elijahocean.bandcamp.com.