In the 3 years since the eponymous Eric Lee extended-play mini album comes this perfectly produced collection of twelve compositions with huge crossover potential. Heartache Town, the title track, is pure pop Americana succinctly wrapped up in two minutes and forty-five seconds. It drives, captivates, and brings the listener in with the elegance of James Taylor and an integrity so essential to believability.
The singer’s voice is the intro flowing into an immediate groove that gives a solid foundation for the storyline – for Lee’s prime instrument is (actually are) those vocal chords, above his ability to play, pluck and strum a variety of different vibrating strings attached to a multitude of different wooden platforms.
“Another Bloody Mary Morning” is a rock hootenanny with bluegrass overtones and a showcase for the singer’s ability to discretely traverse different styles. Those styles change quickly from song to song, quickly yet ever so slightly, with the tunes placed in an inviting way begging for repeated spins.
“Silver Headstone” goes pure traditional country – almost three minutes before the five minute “Prince of Dreamers.” And despite the reference to James Taylor above, Lee’s influences aren’t that glaring, he tucks the many sources he draws from onto an original canvas that makes it all very appealing.
Two epics are “Fall of Man,” and “To Write You A Song,” the latter appearing on the previous collection as well. “Fall of Man” features Eric Lee – lead vocal, acoustic guitar, mandolin, baritone violin, electric fiddle, violins, electric guitar, Tracy Grammer – harmony vocal, Greg Greenway – harmony vocal, Matthew Thornton – cello, Jim Henry – electric lead guitar, Paul Kochanski – bass, J.J. O’Connell – drums, Brian Johnson – sitar – and the accompanists are listed straight from the press information to give a scope on how many different ideas and vibrations combine to give these story songs such lively brio and heart.
The semi-duet on “Lucky Penny,” a song co-written with Neale Eckstein, brings a nice change of pace, though it’s still Eric Lee’s vocal chords that pave the way. A deep, intentionally underplayed acoustic guitar as lead instrument, “I Wish I Was a Plumber” is a musician’s lament, reminiscent of Tony Hendra (Spinal Tap) and his amazing, insightful John Lennon parody “If I could be a fisherman I would be a fisherman but I can’t because I’m a (expletive) Genius.” Co-written with Pete Nelson the rhythm section of Kochanski and O’Connell are a delight while Ryan Hommel’s pedal steel also demanding mention.
Again it is Lee’s heartfelt voice and observations which catch your attention while sterling accompaniment embraces the themes of the dozen written essays, smoothly enveloped by these vibrant musical textures
1. The Garden (Where No Burdens Will Pass Through) 03:09
2. Heartache Town 02:45
3. Another Bloody Mary Morning 03:49
4. Silver Headstone 02:58
5. Prince of Dreamers 05:08 buy track
6. Fall of Man 06:29
7. I Wish I Was a Plumber 05:51
8. Lucky Penny 03:50
9. Life Without You 03:10
10. To Write You a Song 06:35
11. Giving Up On You 05:18
12. Help My Neighbor On 04:31
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.