Thursday, May 25th, 2006

New Drink For The Old Drunk

I think Crooked Fingers is maybe the band that gets heaviest rotation in my listening that I’ve never actually done a proper post about. Time to rectify that. I’m a relatively new convert to the gospel of Eric Bachmann, really only seeing/hearing them for the first time in October 2004 when Bachmann opened for The Delgados as a solo act. I thought he was great but it wasn’t unitl last March when I was invited to the Crooked Fingers show at the Horseshoe that I was driven to pick up any of his recorded output starting with 2005’s Dignity & Shame. That record would end up in my top 5 albums of last year and the rest, as they say, is compulsive back catalog collecting.

The completistism hasn’t carried over to Bachmann’s old band Archers Of Loaf – I’ve got Vee Vee and Icky Mettle but their noisy 90s alt.rock is so far removed from the timeless troubadour persona that Bachmann took with Crooked Fingers that one does not satisfy a craving for the other. But before you old-schoolers jump all over me, I’m getting around to working on the AoL catalog. Put those pitchforks away.

It’s hard to say what I find so compelling about Crooked Fingers – on paper, it’s nothing especially original but I guess there’s something about Bachmann’s evocative songwriting, 50-packs-a-day rasp and the near-perfect production and instrumentation of the records that strikes a deep chord with me. It’s singer-songwriter done perfectly. So naturally I’m excited to hear that Bachmann will be releasing a new record on August 22 via Saddle Creek. CMJ reports that To The Races will be released under Bachmann’s own name and will apparently be very stripped down – just guitar and voice with some piano and violin accents. Recorded in a week in a North Carolina hotel room, it sounds to be quite a switch from the lushness of Dignity & Shame, maybe even more austere than the first couple Crooked Fingers records which were fairly sparse in their own right.

While I was obviously a fan of the richer Crooked Fingers sound, I’ve witnessed Bachmann solo and can testify that the man on his own is riveting. It’s telling that at SxSW this year, with all the buzz bands and next big things playing the fest, it was Bachmann’s solo set on the top floor of the Capital Place hotel that was hands down the best performance I witnessed. There’s something to be said for the wily veterans. Bachmann has some choice opening gigs this Summer for Calexico and Neko Case but will be doing a co-headlining tour with Richard Bucker this Fall.

I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up every legit Crooked Fingers MP3 I could find online, covering the breadth of their discography. Also be sure to hit their MySpace and their own homepage – they’re streaming Dignity & Shame‘s “You Must Build A Fire” and it’s essential listening for anyone with a heart. Also, Epitonic has Crooked Fingers’ cover of Prince’s “When U Were Mine” taken from their Reservoir Songs covers EP. I can’t figure out how to direct link the track so you’ll have to go there to get it. Update: And there’s a slew more MP3s available on the Crooked Fingers website – just click on the huge “music” graphic on the left side.

MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Call To Love”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Big Darkness”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Devil’s Train”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “New Drink For The Old Drunk”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Juliette”

One of the highlights of Dignity & Shame was the contrast in Bachmann’s vocals and those of Australian-in-New-York Lara Meyerratken. Meyerratken’s main gig is as keyboardist for Ben Lee but she also moonlights with other acts – though she didn’t tour with Crooked Fingers on their jaunt up here last year, I did see her as touring keyboardist for Luna a few years back. And she’s very lazily working on some solo material which you can have a listen to at her MySpace. The tracks sound great and her voice is like butter – I hope these see the light of day someday soon.

Full Of Wishes has a first look at the artwork for The Very Best Of Luna compilation coming out on June 20 and Amazon has the tracklisting. As Andy points out, the mysterious “Hard Times” is actually “Sideshow By The Seashore”, thus dashing the hopes of completists who were looking for some lost gem to make this comp worth owning. I’m a little disappointed that Rhino, who has usually done such a good job of loading up their best-ofs with rarities and whatnot, has apparently gone with a straight cull of album tracks for this one. One hopes that this means that a proper separate b-sides and rarities comp is in the works – after all, Luna were one of the best odds and sods bands of recent memory, their singles and EPs being as essential as the albums. But who knows.

Bradley’s Almanac makes me jealous with a recording of Margot & The Nuclear So And Sos in Boston Monday night. He’ll have the Film School portion of the show up soon as well.

It’s the darkness and the light at Lee’s Palace on August 3 with Black Heart Procession and Danielson, tickets $15. The Handsome Family and Curt Kirkwood, playing solo although the Meat Puppets have reformed, are at the Horseshoe July 15, tickets $13.50.

Happy belated birthday to Bob Dylan, who turned 65 yesterday. Billboard pays tribute to the now-senior citizen and The Toronto Star considers Dylan in print.

np – Evangelicals / So Gone

By : Frank Yang at 8:25 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. TJ says:

    Word on the genius that is Eric Bachmann. He is who Will Johnson wants to become.

    After you catch up on Archers’ stuff (<i>White Trash Heroes</i> is a favorite of mine), pick up EB’s middle period instrumental albums recorded under the name Barry Black, if you haven’t already.

  2. Frank says:

    well to be fair to Mr Johnson (whom I hope you weren’t slighting), Bachmann has been at it for a good many years longer and he got his rock ya-yas out with AoL allowing him to concentrate on the balladeer stuff in CF. Johnson’s also got the multiple project thing happening but they just happen to be running concurrently…

  3. information leafblower says:

    I am AoL fan #1 around these parts and I second the recommendation of White Trash Heroes. It’s like a combo AoL/Crooked Fingers record and may be the best thing Bachmann has ever done. I’m gutted I didn’t find out he had Matt playing bass on the last CF tour until after they came through town here.

    Also, if you’re scouring the back catalog of AoL, the Greatest of All Time EP is a must. "Lowest Part Is Free" is probably my favorite Archers song ever.

  4. jk says:

    crooked fingers does a cover of prince’s ‘when you were mine’.

    get it! it rocks.

  5. Frank says:

    jk – yeah, I provided a link to Epitonic to get the Prince cover.

  6. TJ says:

    I meant no slight on Johnson at all; I should have said "is working toward." I was mostly talking about the multiple bands and solo stuff, experimentation with style, sound, and production.

  7. wendy says:

    Frank, I was also at Eric’s SxSW show. It was like an oasis from the madness everwhere else. I also LOVED last year’s record (Dignity & Shame)…I think my favorite tune on it is Weary Arms, though Call to Love is up there too.

  8. Jeremy K says:

    They were selling a CD of Red Devil Dawn demos last time the Crooked Fingers were through town. I am still kicking myself for not getting it because R.D.D. is my favorite Crooked Fingers record. I think my favorite Archers is either All the Nations AIrports or the Greatest of All Time EP. Check that out. If anyone has that Red Devil Dawn Demos CD, post it somewhere, we can be friends.


  9. Karl says:

    I generally avoid self-promotion, but since you mentioned Dylan’s birthday, I think you would enjoy the YouTube and Hype Machine links of Dylan and Dylan covers — including some from Neko Case and Page France — posted at the site I help maintain.

  10. Andrew says:

    hey great blog
    i literally Just started a blog, and im just trying to get the word out

  11. Karl says:

    …and that’s why I try to avoid linking to myself, even when it’s relevant to the main topic.

  12. bcpl says:

    There are a good bunch of mp3s on the site

  13. Frank says:

    well shit. all the times I’ve been there, I never thought to click on the big "Music"…

    So yeah, there’s five more MP3s on the site – click on Music and then MP3s and there you go. And here’s the video for "Old Drink For The New Drunk".

  14. Chaz says:

    Crooked Fingers? I thought he was Neil Diamond.