We're All Out Of Real Tigers

Daniel Ellsworth is the new Jack White.

Making a statement like that requires some explanation, wouldn’t you think? Ok, allow me to explain. Jack White is a genius, in more ways than one. He’s got some skewed views on the world at times, but overall, he makes music he loves, and spends an inordinate amount of time figuring out ways to bring the music he loves to fruition. After The White Stripes, he moved out on his own (the second album of which we should hear more about as 2014 continues) and Blunderbuss was one of the best records I heard in 2012. It wasn’t a continuation of The White Stripes. It wasn’t really anything The White Stripes did. It was just what a Jack White solo album should sound like. Jack White. Strong vocal moments, ludicrous and intricate guitar work, and a style that becomes him. The statement isn’t meant to say that Jack White is past his prime. Quite the opposite actually. But I digress.

The same can be said of Daniel Ellsworth, lead singer of Daniel Ellsworth and The Great Lakes. Ellsworth has been pushing The Great Lakes since 2009 when he founded the band in Nashville, Tennessee. A Kickstarter campaign allowed the band, compiling Ellsworth, drummer Joel Wren, guitarist Timon Lance and bassist Marshall Skinner, to record their first full-length Civilized Man in 2011. In addition to a brief stint by Ellsworth on NBC’s The Sing-Off, the band has made a decent name for themselves. The band as a whole does a magnificent job at crossing genres while keeping their rock and roll roots firmly planted in the Nashville scene. The album sounds exactly like what we’d expect from a record that Ellsworth would release, and working with Grammy winner Vance Powell on production (Kings of Leon, Jack White), it’s a wonder how the similarities bled through.

Their new album, Kid Tiger, plays on these genres, but allows the band more breathing room in regards to more structured and deep songs. “Idle Warning” is a perfect example, with its almost hidden guitar picking before the catchy chorus chimes in, similar to the band’s debut hit “Bleeding Tongue”. Another catchy track follows, “Phantoms”, as well as the lead single “Sun Goes Out”. What Ellsworth and crew do seriously well is bridges, as evidenced on a rocker style cut like “Fits & Starts”, and despite it being only four minutes long, it sounds like they could have kept going for seven or eight. It’s reassuring to hear bands like The Great Lakes allowing themselves space to get creative. It allows their live shows to expand into a more accurate representation of who the band is. Another great example is “Tourniquet”, exploding with grooving guitars, fast paced percussion and an infectious vocal from Ellsworth, reminding of Cold War Kids at moments.

While most bands would run into the failure of every song sounding the same, there’s enough surprises and added electronic elements in different moments on Kid Tiger to set them wildly apart from any brand of mediocrity. That’s the beauty of such a new and up-coming band like this. Comparisons aside, there’s plenty to fall in love with on every track of Kid Tiger. You just need to sit and enjoy.

Justin Mabee