Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge: Mount Royal
A meeting of both minds and music, Mount Royal provides the second collaboration between guitar wizards Julian Lage and Chris “Critter” Eldridge, the latter moonlighting from his gig with Punch Brothers. With Punch Brothers bandmate Gabe Witcher assuming the role of producer, Mount Royal is markedly more subdued than its title might imply, but it’s commanding and compelling all the same. Mostly made up of enticing instrumentals, it offers occasional vocals that provide additional interest and a wistful respite in the form of idyllic ambience. A cover of Eddie Vedder’s “Sleeping by Myself,” newly attuned with folk finesse, will likely draw the most listens but, in truth, it’s the mellow musings and an easy, breezy feel that make Mount Royal so easy on the ears. Granted, it’s unobtrusive in tone, but the chemistry between the two and their shared sense of subtlety can’t help but impart a lingering impression. Songs such as “Life in the Mississippi Valley,” “Everything Must Go” and “Lion’s Share” reaffirm those delicate designs, but also make for a sound worth listening to beyond any need to consider it only as mood music. Lage’s background in jazz and Eldridge’s penchant for bluegrass find common ground, emerging in a way that upends the parameters of both. Lovely and lilting at the same time, Mount Royal finds both men ensconced on a comfortable plateau.