Indiana folk musician, Eli Van Sickel, has released his first compilation album The Eli Van Sampler, to offer a taste of his many talents. Featuring songs from his first three full length albums and three new instrumentals for his devoted fans, this “greatest hits” collection is a great introduction to the young troubadour and his songs.
The first track, “Maybe Someday” is a new instrumental is a bluesy, swaying number, but not so much a brand new song as a treat for devotees to hear an alternate version, the original appeared on his second album Middle West.
“Partners”, the second number, really gets things kicking off right. Featured on his third album Nightlife, it’s bopping folk love song, a dedication to the risks and thrills of late night love. Two other songs from Nightlife are also featured, “Fall Asleep (Dancing)” and the instrumental “Apology to the Wind”. “Fall Asleep (Dancing)” is another love type song, but a much more somber one, a lonesome sounding riff toasting to the end of the night and looking forward to the next evening of adventure. “Apology to the Wind” is an interesting one, it has the characteristic blues base of many of Eli’s instrumental songs, but there’s an echo-like effect that adds another dimension to the music.
His second album Middle West gets a fair shake with the fourth track “Rainy Road”, a droning number about the old roads he walks back home. The sounds of his guitar and voice, with their nearly disconnection paints a clear picture of the roads he sings of. “Unsteady Hands” is a bit of a family number, with Eli singing of his hands and how they have let him down, just as they have his father and sister. The last track from Middle West, “Hippy King”, shows Eli’s playful side, a hard-strumming number about the lovable loafers that inhabit any town.
“John Wayne” showcases Eli’s first album Songs of Ambition a bit, even if it is the re-recorded version of the song. This has been Eli’s “hit” sort to speak, the one he gets requested to play the most often at his gigs, and it’s not hard to hear why, a dreamy, swinging number that can people moving a bit. “All I Need is a Key” and “Nico” are also from Songs of Ambition and are presented in their original form, allowing new listeners to hear the lo-fi beginnings of Eli’s music.
This compilation focuses heavily on his ballads and somber numbers, but offers new listeners a chance to get a feel for Eli’s passionate brand of Hoosier folk music. And for long time fans, it’s a pretty good stop-gap release while we wait for his fourth full length album.