REVIEW: Portland Cello Project – “To E.S.”

Elliott Smith’s transubstantiation into a string ensemble is something wondrous (yet subtly shaded) to behold on Portland Cello Project’s LP tribute to the late artist, titled, simply, to e.s.

Songs like “Pitseleh” and “Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” both arranged here by project founder Doug Jenkins, retain their charm, while “Shard,” a riveting original composition by Nancy Ives, underscores the drama inherent in Smith’s gone-too-soon oeuvre. Want more drama? How about the weeping strings of “Between The Bars” and the lone horn blaring out the vocal line or the unexpected drums keeping time on “Needle In The Hay?” Sheesh.

Some might suggest it’s blasphemy to tamper with Smith’s original songs — I’m open to that argument — but PCP does them proud, adding the expected texture and epic classicist sweep. Best moment, though? Far and away the closing song, Rachel Grimes’ plodding, mysterious “For Next Time.”

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