Good morning music lovers! I am lucky enough to be doing a little write-up for one of my favorite musicians of the past year or so; Marcus Eads is a improvisational guitarist and songwriter from Minnesota, and this is his first full-length album of 2014 titled “1843”.
As is the case with just about everything i see come out of Marcus’ catalog, this album is steeped in americana. Therefore, before I even delve into the music, let us take a look at what the year 1843 had to offer! Aside from being a time of general hardship, 1843 provided us with the first look at Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as well as E.A. Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. A gentleman by the name of William Miller was also convinced that 1843 would be the year the world ended! Lucky for all of us, his preaching offered no truth. However, the most relevant would be the departure of the first wagon train to Oregon from Missouri, seeing over 1000 men, women and children cross this country via the Oregon Trail.
Now if you are anything like me, an introverted geek in his mid twenties, you will have grown up enjoying the ever addicting computer game adaptation of this grueling journey. Hours upon hours would be spent gathering the right supplies, picking the right route and clicking your way across the country. Your digital family is constantly avoiding danger, whether you were trying to cross a river or beat off disease, I can say personally that I never ONCE had my family reach the glorious finish line of the west coast. Though simply a game formatted for Windows 95, this was a brutally realistic depiction of actual life on the trail for the early settlers.
So 1843 was the year of the “The Great Migration”, by this time there had been a trail mapped out which allowed for mass movement to the west. It was this event which lead to the California Gold Rush and an absurd amount of Land Claims for virtually no pay. What this did was provide many Americans the very real dream of owning their own land and starting a new life on the west coast.
Throughout the album “1843”, we are confronted with a plethora of brooding riffs that seem to have been peeled straight out of the wagon train. Peppered with positive vibes and encouraging rhythms, the overall tone of this work is one of deep thought and struggle, I feel. Carved into each track is a nostalgic, almost antique nature, making it near impossible to not visualize a family sitting around a fire, crusty travelers picking these melodies on their ragged guitars.
12 tracks long, weighing in just over 30 minutes of music, the songs are named after familiar landmarks along the trail. Leading us from Courthouse Rock (Track 1) all the way to Oregon City (Track 12), one can almost look at “1843” as a sonic interpretation of this journey. The improvisational stylings of Marcus’s guitars lend to the very organic flavor of the whole album. More often than not we are treated to what seems to be no more than two dueling guitar parts , occasionally peppered with field recordings, light percussion and piano.
In truth, “1843” is no departure from Marcus Eads style, however I will say its a much more focused concept than has previously been executed. With solo projects reaching back to 2012, americana has always held a strong foot in his tunes, but “1843” is an exceptional example. Tracks such as “Fort Hall” are overflowing with that raw western feeling, guitar leads dancing here and there over a dark and pensive progression, whereas songs like “South Pass” seem to embody the optimism inherently necessary on a trip such as this.
All in all, “1843” by Marcus Eads is a wonderful sonic expedition and a brilliantly crafted concept album. You can download it and stream it now via Marcus’s bandcamp or via Ailanthus Recordings.