Elijah Cross bares all on debut album
Elijah Cross's debut album was recorded in six days, but he spent 15 years living those songs.
That weatherworn songwriting shows on "Here's The Skinny," nine keyboard-and guitar-driven originals that feel as comfortable as a favorite pair of shoes.
Cross is a regular on the York music scene, and the album tracks add nuance to songs you may have heard him play at places such as Holy Hound Taproom or John Wright Restaurant.
Reseda, California-based multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo produced the album, and Perdomo's pedal steel and glossy guitar kick off the first song, "I Will Break Your Heart." Cross sets the album's confessional tone with the first line: "Before we begin, let me say I'm terrified."
Harmonies, organ and country-style drums on the first few songs hint at Cross's range of influences, from pop songwriters like Aimee Mann to the old-time jazz artists who were his heroes as a child.
Cross's voice is center stage. Often conversational and never strained, he also isn't afraid to slip into his upper register or belt with vibrato.
That vocal precision is the result of both nature and nurture. Cross attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, a public magnet school for middle school and high school students who showed talent in the arts. From there he spent years performing in Miami and San Diego, where he evolved from a shy aspiring composer to the kind of entertainer who can also tell a joke or pull out a magic trick.
Those years brought good times and bad times, he said, and became the album's raw material. He traced many of his songs back to specific events.
For example, the 35-year-old songwriter said he first wrote "The Lord Still Loves Me" when he was 20, on a piano at a homeless shelter in Miami. A woman asked him to write a religious song for her husband, who was in prison. He wasn't feeling spiritual, but he wrote the song anyway, and helping her helped him to emerge from his own depression.
"Rachel Goodrich," the most playful song on the album, is about his own music-scene crush with the eponymous Miami indie artist. Material that could be cringe-worthy in the wrong hands gets exactly the irreverent treatment it deserves, with bells, a kazoo and a clamor that evokes the live music circuit itself.
Like his musical influences, Cross's hope for this LP is perhaps more vinyl-era than digital, but it's admirable all the same.
"I wanted to write songs you'd sit down and really listen to," Cross said. "Not background music."
Want to see Elijah live?
Where: John Wright Restaurant
When: Friday, July 22, 6 p.m.
Cost: No cover, but patrons must reserve a table or sit at the bar
Albums: $10 CDs or $8 digital downloads. Visit www.elijahcross.bandcamp.com for more info