Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
In a tucked away corner of a neighborhood in West Little Rock, through a code-entry gate and into an anonymous grid of garage door storage buildings, Elise Davis is back from an afternoon run, shrugging and laughing her way through another Friday band practice in an LRPD shirt, baseball cap and, disarmingly enough, makeup and earrings.
Barely 21, she's one of the most prolific, ambitious young songwriters in the state, writing since 12, recording since 15 and now set to release her fourth full-length album, "The Same Vein," this Friday at a concert at Town Pump.
But right now she's leading the newest incarnation of the Elise Davis Band through a jaunty, thumping take of "Trouble," a bass-driven, effortlessly melodic three-minute slice of inspired pop that highlights her new release. Four days and literally dozens of spins later, I'm confident, excited and, to be completely honest, a bit shocked to say — in all sincerity — it's the catchiest thing I've heard all year.
It's also a promising sign of Davis' self-described reinvention and maturation.
With "The Same Vein," she's taking a step beyond the organic folk-pop of her teenage years, into a richer, brighter world of confident indie-pop; this, thanks to accompaniment from Josh Tate on drums behind Jordan Trotter and Trevor Ware, guitarist and bassist, respectively, for the now-defunct Grand Serenade.
Sure, Davis' songs are still written in the Southern, female singer/songwriter fashion a la Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, but now, with her new backing band, they're fleshed out with a new amplified, melodic weight that carries her 21st-century torch songs into new territory that recalls a femme-led Travis one minute ("Dust Bowl") and Sara Bareilles the next ("Cold World, Hot Love").
This metamorphosis may have taken her into easy pop, ready for VH1 morning shows and Nicholas Sparks movie soundtracks, but don't be fooled by her harmless accessibility. Or her age. Or her looks. Elise is a workhorse first and foremost.
It doesn't take much more than a quick glance at her acoustic guitar case to see she's making no plans to slow her output. It's bursting with sheets upon sheets of disparate pieces of dog-eared lyric sheets she's collected over the year. To put it in perspective, with her first four albums released in three and a half years, she's outpaced the early years of the notoriously fruitful Guided by Voices.
It's a productivity that's alluded to, blatantly, on the cover of her new album. It shows Elise seated in an antique chair, beside a scatter of ragged, bent and sketched-on composition books.
But in the meantime, before we see how far her constant stream of readymade pop could take her, she and her new band seem at home while cramped into their practice space, learning and fleshing out the latest of a rapidly expanding catalog.
Elise Davis releases her newest album, "The Same Vein," this Friday, August 20, 10 p.m., $6 at Town Pump.
In the meantime, sample her latest — including the terrific "Trouble" — at her website, www.elisedavis.com.
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