I’ve waited a long time to be able to share the music of my friend Paul Basile with you. I’ve known Paul since I was about 18 or 19 - working together for a few summers during our formative years, sneaking off to record stores while we were on the clock, trading Son Volt, Steve Earle and Wilco CDs, and exploring all sorts of new music together. After going off to college in Upstate New York he started playing guitar and writing songs with friends, and the creative ball kept rolling through post-collegiate moves to Montana and Alaska. It was in the cold, barren landscapes of rural Alaska that Paul’s muse really started to take flight. He wrote a batch of folk songs that made him a sort of local celebrity in Bethel while he worked as a sled dog handler. He recorded some of these songs and brought a very DIY album called Skeletons home with him to New York in 2006. It didn’t take long for Paul to make a name for himself on the local scene, playing open mic’s and small club shows around Brooklyn and Manhattan.
It was around this time he met Patrick Hay, my favorite living guitarist :~), and formed the short lived but much loved Here Lies Pa. Their first show was actually one of my very first (painfully awkward) PHW posts way back in early 2007. Though the band never made it into the studio for anything significant before disbanding, their time together provided the blueprint for what would come next. In the ensuing years Basile and Hay played shows either as a duo or with a variety of rhythm sections, waiting for the right combination to solidify a new line-up and officially start a new band. They have, and Great Elk is the name. This isn't simply a plea to listen to my friend's music - it's an introduction to music that truly matters to me, as well as a band that you could very well be hearing about for years to come.
Great Elk's upcoming, self-titled EP is a stellar first look at the band. Debuting on Magnet last week, “Vibrations” highlights Basile’s concise yet evocative lyrical style, raspy vocals, and Hay’s expert touch on guitar (making a slide weep like a pedal steel). “We waited for today”, indeed. The other 4 songs are equally strong - “Bow Echo” and “Jester & June” are impassioned, anthemic indie-folk, “Further North” is a slow-building torch song written in Alaska that recalls Stranger's Almanac-era Ryan Adams, and the traditional “Down In The Willow Garden” gets dusted off and amped up, kicking things off in memorable style. Great Elk will be self-released and comes out June 22. They’ll be throwing a record release party June 24 at NY’s Mercury Lounge. Don’t miss out on this one.