Country music doesn’t have to be loud, glamorous, nor feature an elaborate instrumental arrangement to be endearing. Honestly, I’ve always found the laid-back, simplistic side of country to be its most emotional and entrancing, and this is the side Eller Rhodes are playing off of in their new single “County Fair” this summer. Striking a balance between a John Denver-style folk/pop and the bucolic melodicism of traditional country music, Eller Rhodes channel some of the most spellbinding aesthetical attributes of both genres beautifully, though I think “County Fair” will serve more as a boon to the Nashville puritans among us than anyone else.
I love the guitar parts in this song, and I particularly like how cleanly they’re presented to us in the mix. There’s never a moment in which the string melodies are clouded by a bassline or partly concealed behind a prominent showing of strength from the vocal – they’re always at the forefront of our attention, guiding us into the guts of the music (and the soul of this band). I wouldn’t normally want them as heavily featured beside such a forward piano element, but this is an instance in which they coexist brilliantly.
The keys are quite the stunning instrumental counterpart to the lyrics in “County Fair,” and to some degree, they’re the foundation for every cathartic vocal harmony in the song. Jane Witmer Alley’s work beside her father Jim Witmer as Eller Rhodes is engaging for both the audience and the material at hand for one significant reason above all others – they know how to read each other in the studio. There are moments where it’s difficult to tell where one end of the melodic charm is starting and another is trailing off into the backdrop, not because of negligent performing, but because of the kinship between the players.
Jim Witmer doesn’t hesitate as a vocalist in “County Fair,” and he layers the lyrics atop the humble strum of the strings in this single beautifully. He’s tethered the emotionality of his words to the harmony between his voice and the guitar strings so tightly that we await his every note as a means of better appreciating the feelings he’s putting out for us in this song. He and his daughter aren’t the only kindred spirits in the studio; the melodies, the percussion, even the mixing board seems to have a connection to the Witmers here.
I can’t believe this is only the second single this duo has released together mostly because of how complete and well-rounded it feels, and if it’s just a sneak preview of what’s still to come, they’re going to make a lot of the country music faithful very pleased this season. Indie country has become increasingly loyal to the traditionalist standards of what was once a sect in the genre forgotten by the Nashville elites, but with performances like this one from artists like Eller Rhodes, the underground is only going to become harder for even the snobbiest in the country music establishment to ignore.
The music of Eller Rhodes has been heard all over the world in partnership with the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Radio Promotions Division. Learn more https://musikandfilm.com
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