To the Races
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2007, Volume 14, #11
Written by John Metzger
Thu November 8, 2007, 07:10 AM CST
When Eric Bachmann departed from Archers of Loaf to found Crooked Fingers, the entire point of the excursion was to free himself from the limitations of his former band. He left behind the dissonant mayhem of its beginnings as well as the layered waves of slow-moving distortion that he was exploring near its end, replacing these facets of his work with subtle, roots-oriented auras that were drawn from America’s Appalachian and Heartland regions. Rather than using To the Races, his first proper solo effort, to make another change of direction, he opted to delve deeper and more firmly embrace the simplicity of the nation’s purest folk refrains. As he continues to put distance between himself and his output with Archers of Loaf, his increasingly minimalist approach magnifies the lost and lonely feeling that emanates from his lyrics.
Throughout To the Races, Bachmann seems to be searching for his own identity as he ruminates upon love and loss while leading a nomadic lifestyle. With Crooked Fingers, he demonstrated his affinity for Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and To the Races is, perhaps, the fulfillment of his desire to craft a like-minded affair. He moves down dusty, rural roads under the cover of night, and his rolling, finger-picked guitar patterns provide the light that shines from a million twinkling stars. Miranda Brown’s backing vocals add a heavenly elegance to the proceedings, particularly on Man O’War, while the sound of Tom Hagerman’s violin lends a mournful air to Home.
Like Dan Bern without the humor, Bachmann draws a line that connects Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Woody Guthrie, while also adding a few more modern touches from the likes of Lindsey Buckingham (Lonesome Warrior) and David Gray (Man O’War). The results are as stark as they are lovely, as intimately revealing as they are outwardly observant. After nearly two decades of work, it seems as if Bachmann finally has found his calling. To the Races is neither bold nor groundbreaking, which makes it not only harder for Bachmann to leave a lasting impression, but also more remarkable that he does. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box