Acoustic Eidolon – a gem in acoustic music

Acoustic Eidolon – a gem in acoustic musicBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

The scene is stark. The Burroughs High School Parker Performing Arts Center’s large, black stage supports a single chair, a cello and a few guitars, one of which curiously has two necks. A man and a woman emerge from the wings and don their instruments. With a mere “Hello, everybody,” they are off on an instrumental excursion.

That man and woman were Joe and Hannah of “Acoustic Eidolon,” the folk-pop-world music duo who graced the stage last week as the final offering of the Indian Wells Valley Concert Association season. Local fans, having seen the duo in prior visits here, were eager to hear them. And it was obvious why.

Joe played acoustic guitar, as well as his unique 14-string double-necked “guitjo” – one neck strung like a banjo and the other like a guitar. The instrument was something he had custom made and he demonstrated his special technique to the audience, but I’m still pretty sure there was still magic involved somehow.

Hannah played the cello with a virtuosity that was almost matched in beauty by her singing voice. What the duo accomplished with the two instruments and their vocal harmonies was nothing short of sensational.

Their first number had a very celtic ring to it. Joe and Hannah effortlessly swapped roles of melodist and accompanist throughout the piece —something they continued to do for the remainder of the concert.

After a bit more of an introduction, they played and sang an original piece, “When the Rain Falls.” The song blended a verse with French lyrics, reminiscent of a Parisian chanson, and an English chorus of chords that vacillated from major to minor, sounding like something from a lost Beatles recording.

They next moved into an instrumental cover of of “Eleanor Rigby.” If I hadn’t been physically present I would have thought at least a small chamber orchestra was performing. The duo produces a fullness that doesn’t quite seem possible, playing percussively, melodically and everything in between.

Hannah’s vocals were showcased during their cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” Her voice has a beautiful, honest quality that sounds like it was just destined for song from birth.

Other covers included instrumental versions of rock classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Hannah shredded just as well as Brian May and Jimmy Page, and Joe’s flurrying hands and acrobatic arrangements made memorable takes on these classics.

Their originals were every bit as impressive. The powerful “Tree Finds Its Voice” tells the unique story of how both Hannah’s and Joe’s current instruments came from the same tree, and the nostalgic “75 North Second Street” reminisces of Hannah’s childhood home. The group has a true gift for songcraft that stands out from many of the acoustic groups that have come through Ridgecrest. They impressively cater what sounds like a James Taylor/Carole King-inspired sound to their unique instrumentation.

The duo could probably be making a killing by recording easy-listening instrumental covers of songs like “My Heart Will Go On” to be played in Chinese-food restaurants. But their instrumental prowess and knack for songcraft elevates them far beyond the realm of elevator music. And they can write instrumental pop that demonstrates their musicianship, without becoming too esoteric and self indulgent.

The next season of the IWVCA concert series will begin in the fall. Ticket and membership information is available at iwvca.com.

Story First Published: 2017-04-18