This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.
Just this past Tuesday, Boulder’s own Eminence Ensemble dropped their newest album, Real News, to the pleasure of an already highly-developed local fanbase. At this very moment, the up-and-coming jam-fusion sextet is preparing for their cross-country tour in support of the album, which kicks off Thursday in Texas. Some gigs are opening slots while others are headlining shows, but either way Eminence Ensemble will be firing on all cylinders, running high from the release of Real News. After a week-long stint in Texas and then Montana, Eminence Ensemble will open for Turkuaz on back-to-back hometown shows — February 15 at Frisco’s recently opened 10 Mile Music Hall and February 16 at Denver’s beloved Ogden Theatre.
The very aptly named Real News is a 13-track album that starts off strong with the nearly nine-minute “Cowboy Jordan,” an all-encompassing song that contains many different elements, including a recording of Richard Nixon’s famous phone call with Neil Armstrong while walking on the surface of the moon. Much of “Cowboy Jordan” is instrumental, introducing the listener to the vibe of the album. The theme of the record is a story of six hometown heroes that have really honed their skills as musicians, and have blossomed into rock ‘n’ roll badasses here to jam.
“The Road” is an ideal follow-up to “Captain Jordan,” a classic-sounding rock ‘n’ roll tune that sounds similar to big names in the jam band world like moe. or Umphrey’s McGee. The song shows off the talents of all three guitarists and vocalists — Justin Neely, Taylor Frederick and Zac Flynn. “The Road” also sees some of the album’s most endearing lyricism to boot — “I’m sorry, Mama, but it’s time to go / You’ll hear my voice again on the radio / Well, I ain’t got money, but I got my guitar / And just enough gas to make it to the next bar / Sorry, baby, but it’s time to leave / To live the life you’ve got to see to believe / Struggling just to stay alive / ‘Cause the road only lets us go 65.”
Next comes “My Own Hell,” a spacey trance tune — differing from “Forbidden Fruit” and the following tracks that are truly funky — with Johnny Bosbyshell blaring on the keys throughout. The funk sincerely oozes from Eminence Ensemble in “Booty for Days,” which sees the addition of rap on top of all the other genres the band is so gracefully mastering. To bring on the second half of the album, the Eminence boys go back to rocking out in “Clarity” and the soulful “Queen Bee,” the latter of which boasts Nick Baum on the percussion and Tanner Bardin on the drums. The remainder of the album follows suit, smoothly transitioning from genre to genre and never missing a beat.
Things take a turn for the hip-hop in “Before You Settle Down” and for the sensual in “Nighthawk,” the former of which gives an additional taste of the band’s poeticism — “It might be a while until I come around / I never would have climbed so high if I knew I had to come down / Right now I need to see inside myself before I even make a sound / Sometimes you gotta settle up before you settle down.” Eminence Ensemble utilizes another historical recording in “The Way,” which quotes the philosopher Alan Watts before moving into the band’s own interpretation of the meaning of “tomorrow,” and of what the future holds. Real News closes with “Here’s Your Sine,” an instrumental. This choice illustrates that Eminence Ensemble has left no story left unsung — until the next gig, that is.