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Wall of Fire
Artist: Peter Elkas
Label: MapleMusic Recordings
Time: 10 tracks/37:05
Like a sweet smell on the breeze – something you recognize from another time and place …something that makes you smile, but makes you just a bit sad at the same time: Peter Elkas’ music slips easily into the undercurrents of your soul and lingers in the nooks and crannies. As soon as the first notes of Wall of Fire’s first track, “Fall Apart Again,” begin, you know that you’re in for something that stands apart from the majority of ‘new music’ releases vying for your attention and your hard-earned dollar. Elkas has not come up with a ‘new’ sound – he’s not ‘edgy’ or ‘quirky’  - it is, in fact, his lack of pretentiousness that sets him apart from the rest of the oh-so-hip crowd of contemporaries that have substituted posing and attitude for good songwriting and performance. That, I suppose, is what sets Wall of Fire apart: good songwriting and an excellent ‘live in the studio’ vibe produced by a band of players that sound like human beings with real live instruments in their hands. One could imagine a band like this playing in back of Al Green, if he could be coaxed up onto the stage for a song or two. The warm sounds of Hammond organ, piano, real drums, bass and guitar harkens back to a simpler time of the kind of pure music made by the likes of Booker T and Bill Withers, while Elkas himself delivers a pleasant, clear vocal style that never tries too hard, but always delivers the emotional goods. 
The songs on Wall of Fire are mostly songs about relationships – the good, the bad and the ugly – and are stories told with tenderness, humor and sincerity. The music is relatively simple, very sing-able soulful pop - and not without a good share of memorable hooks. Songs like the album’s closer, “See it With Me,” which would fit right in to Bonnie Raitt’s repertoire, is delivered to perfection by Elkas, in a style that is soulful, honest and refreshingly free of vocal posturing.
Elkas’ band, dubbed ‘the Elkaholics,’ features Gavin Maguire on drums, Jeff Heisholt on keyboards, Doug Friesen (related to super-bassman David Friesen?) on bass, along with front-man Peter Elkas on vocals, guitars, and occasional harmonica and piano. The sound is visceral and cool at the same time – the sound of friends playing together and creating a fresh groove each time. Producer Charlie Sexton wisely allows the band to shine without adding studio tricks – evidence of his admiration of the band and the strength of the material. Sexton could not, however, resist the temptation to become part of this musical family, actually touring with them on a limited basis. The camaraderie in the studio is felt in the tracks as you listen to this album, which was basically recorded with all members playing live together in the Toronto-based studio.
At under 40 minutes, this is not a very long album, but every song has the stamp of quality on it and sounds like real music by real people. Is this music cool? ….or is it warm? I guess it’s both – but, it’s definitely some sweet soul music with a kicker of rock and roll to help it go down easy.
By Bert Saraco  5/16/2007


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