There are not too many folks out there throwing their two cents into the pool of musical currency who can say that they hail from as far north as Juneau, Alaska. Although Eric Tollefson would tell you that he makes his home the idyllic town of Bend, Oregon these days, the 49th state native also takes a particular pride in his background. So, it’s not a surprise to know that Tollefson’s creative oeuvre has been well informed by where he’s from. Especially considering that his sophomore effort is aptly entitled The Polar Ends.
In 2009, Tollefson’s life had experienced a sea of change- he had now long since sold his home and had spent the past four years immersed in his songwriting. The self-imposed woodshedding yielded a well-received debut album, The Sum Of Parts, which his hometown paper, the Bend Bulletin put on their “Best of the Locals” list and quipped, “Tollefson’s songs are bluesy pop beauties, spilling... over with impressive guitar work and melodies that’ll follow you around for days.”
Some touring ensued on the heels of the release boasting shared stages with G Love and Special Sauce and Robert Randolph and the Family Band, among others.
Soon after Tollefson went back to the woodshed, and what followed was The Polar Ends, his sophomore effort—an equally impressive record, in fact, a step up and forward, not only in songwriting, but also in production quality and the inclusion of a handful of notable collaborators. "I wanted to work on a record with national players and producers, and know that it took all of what I had to create it."
Recorded largely in part at a remote studio atop densely forested rolling hills near Charlottesville, Virginia, Tollefson gathered a select group of musicians from both coasts in April of 2011 to turn his ideas into reality.
Surrounded by the thunderous rhythm section of Jay Foote and Brian Jones, guitarist Sam Kearney and producer/engineer Rob Evans, Eric created an eight-track album where pure rock 'n' roll sits comfortably alongside lovelorn laments, and where mournful strings, swooping guitars, ethereal background vocals and purposeful tape hiss all make perfect sense.
About 90 seconds into the first track on The Polar Ends, “Tollefson plainly sets the tone: “Love will come racing through your veins,” he sings in his resolute baritone. “Who would’ve thought it’s a poisonous thing?” (“Heart On A String”)
The rest of the record’s songs are a deep and satisfying exhale, as if Tollefson sings primarily to rid his ribcage of the sorrow, satisfaction and rich stories that simmer within it. His sound breathes the doleful spirit of the blues yet pulses with savvy pop sensibility, whether he’s transmitting it via a muscular electric groove or a gorgeous, gently plucked acoustic guitar.
Because Tollefson tends to traverse a plethora of musical styles, it was an appropriate decision to engage two producers: the aforementioned Evans, who helmed the album’s rockers, such as “Whose Love” and “Vultures,” and the Franchot Tone, who produced “Heart on a String” and “Before You Go,” a staggeringly beautiful heartbreaker pulling in master pedal steel player Eric Heywood, (Son Volt and Ray LaMontagne, among others). The song also stands as The Polar Ends first focus track, sporting a nifty video, which has just premiered.
Taken as a whole, The Polar Ends is more than the next album from a confident young singer-songwriter. It feels like a vibrant introduction to a vital new recording artist.