Since forming Elkhorn in 2013, guitarists Drew Gardner and Jesse Sheppard have developed a unique brand of rural psychedelia, bringing together both traditional folk forms and improvisation. Using just two guitars, Sheppard's steady-footed acoustic 12-string figures have served as the grounding force for Gardner’s explorations on electric, often-heavily processed six-string. The duo issued their first album in 2016 and took off from there, releasing at least one full-length annually as their sound wandered into new territory. Sixth full-length The Storm Sessions was tracked in a single night in Gardner's home studio when the group was kept from playing an important gig by a snowstorm. On a pair of albums released in 2019 (Elk Jam and Sun Cycle), Elkhorn expanded from their regular duo formation to include a percussionist and additional guitar player. With The Storm Sessions, they welcome auxiliary musician Turner Williams into the fold. Over the course of two long jams (each broken into three smaller pieces), Gardner and Sheppard build sprawling instrumental landscapes in their patented Elkhorn style, with Williams playing electric bouzouki on one track and a zither-like instrument called a shahi baaja on the other. The album opens with pensive acoustic fingerstyle playing from Sheppard, soon joined by Gardner's phaser-heavy lead lines. "Electric One" builds from that starting point, becoming a simmering raga that reflects the frustration and tension of being trapped in a small apartment by the forces of nature. The three players complement one another well, adding their own accents to the overall mood but never crowding out each other's voices. Even Gardner's meandering lead lines don’t place themselves at center stage, but slink around like a nervous counterpart to Sheppard's patient progressions and Williams' understated contributions. The subtle use of electronic processing adds a psychedelic sheen to the otherwise folksy drones. Twinkling, synth-like tones and distant distortion cut through the mix at various points, breaking up the tension of the slowly ambling pieces with an otherworldly character. The Storm Sessions seeks no resolution, musically or emotionally. Even without the backstory of how the sessions came about, the feeling of snowed-in restlessness is embodied throughout the album. This mood never lifts or opens up to blue skies. Instead, Elkhorn spends The Storm Sessions softly constructing the sonic equivalent of the situation they were in: stuck inside with no way out, passing the hours while the snow silently piled up outside.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas