2 Miles Apart’s second album is a winner!
The material on 2 Miles Apart’s second album, Elephant in the Room, has been described as country, but a more accurate description of this 2012 release would be folk-rock with elements of country, blues and occasionally jazz. The Denver-based male/female duo’s earthy, rootsy songs might appeal to the alternative country/No Depression crowd, although stylistically, Elephant in the Room has more in common with the Indigo Girls, the October Project (the group that singer/songwriter Mary Fahl belonged to before she went solo) and 10,000 Maniacs than it does with, say, alt-country/roots rock group the Blood Oranges. And Elephant in the Room’s organic feel is a long way from the slick, contrived sounds that dominate commercial country-rock radio. But however one describes Elephant in the Room, this is a fine outing from 2 Miles Apart.
This duo consists of singer Rachel Ryan and her songwriting partner Chris Calhoun, who plays all of the instruments; Ryan and Calhoun wrote all of the material together. The expressive Ryan has a sweetly vulnerable style of singing, but her singing isn’t without grit on engaging, nicely crafted tracks such as “Lovin’s Never Easy,” “Silhouette” and “Words Unsaid.” There is sweetness in her performances, but she also has an edge. And she is never sweet in a saccharine or artificial way; it’s a genuine, earnest sort of sweetness that characterizes her performances.
Honey Bee (not to be confused with the disco-soul tune that Gloria Gaynor recorded back in 1975) is an appealing blend of blues-rock and folk-rock, and 2 Miles Apart’s bluesy instincts also serve them pleasingly well on Alabama, Hole in My Heart and My Favorite Mistake (which is not the Sheryl Crow hit from 1998 even though it has the same title). Another decidedly bluesy offering is the moody, swampy Down in the Water, which has a similar feeling to Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe and Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall’s 2005 hit Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. Meanwhile, the more jazz-tinged songs on this CD include “Patient Kind” and the opener “They Say.” Those selections are not straight-ahead vocal jazz along the lines of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McRae; they’re still folk-rock, although they are folk-rock with hints of jazz. And while that might seem unusual to some listeners, it isn’t unprecedented by any means. Joni Mitchell, to use an obvious example, is a singer/songwriter who is relevant to folk-rock and has been influenced by jazz; one of her albums was even named after jazz icon Charles Mingus. So there is a history of folk-rock incorporating jazz elements, and on “They Say” and “Patient Kind,” it sounds perfectly natural coming from 2 Miles Apart. The Denver residents (who are originally from Los Angeles) demonstrate that it is perfectly natural for a folk-rock group to be influenced by jazz just as it is perfectly natural for a folk-rock group to be influenced by country and the blues.
The production on Elephant in the Room is a plus. Calhoon produced, mixed and engineered the album with 2 Miles Apart ally Tiger Strum, and the two of them favor a production style that is organic rather than slick. Elephant in the Room sounds well-produced but not overproduced, which is a good thing for 2 Miles Apart. Ryan and Calhoon are better served by an earthier, more organic style of production.
So from a promotional standpoint, how should 2 Miles Apart market this album? Well, Elephant in the Room is way too organic for commercial country-rock stations, but it isn’t hard to imagine triple-A/adult album alternative stations being receptive to the material. All 11 of the songs on this 44-minute CD would be appropriate for the triple-A/adult album alternative format. And if a radio station has a history of putting the Indigo Girls, the October Project, 10,000 Maniacs or Sheryl Crow in heavy rotation, that station couldn’t go wrong with the tunes on Elephant in the Room.
2 Miles Apart’s second album is a winner.