I've got to come right out and admit that I had high hopes for this
based solely upon the photograph of Eric Heatherly
holding a Gretsch 6120 on the back cover of the CD. I know, it's not
fair to build preconceived notions based on minor things like that,
but I was thinking I was going to be in for some fine Country twang
I was a bit disappointed. Nowhere on the album does Heatherly TWANG.
There are some wicked Telecaster leads, but they all lack that percussive
chicken pickin' twang. But let that not dissuade you from checking
out The Lower East Side Of Life
instead, let's look at
the good to be found.
First off, and the most gratifying part of the record, Eric Heatherly
performs all the instruments and vocals on this record with the
exception of the drums. And we all know drums don't count. Mandolin,
acoustic and electric guitars, bass, lead and background vocals,
harmonica, etc. are all performed by this extremely talented young
man with the silly facial hair. Additionally, Heatherly gains great
points for writing, or co-writing, every single track on the record.
That's becoming a rarity in Nashville country these days - most
artists are content to pick songs from the amazing pool of songwriters
that exists for this purpose. It's refreshing to see that someone
is able to make a fairly strong Nashville style country record filled
with their very own songs. Perhaps the industry begins to turn.
And the meat of the record is basically that. These songs are great
bridges between the world of Nashville and the real country music
world. The songs are heartfelt and engaging, although a bit overly
slick and produced. Lyrically, Heatherly lays out many of his own
philosophies and designs on life in a way that is palatable to the
pop-country listeners, but the music has obviously come from a down
home raising. "Hang It On Your Heart" is crisp guitars and
comfortable chord progressions, filled with nice mandolin fills and
semi-twangy guitar breaks. The slow down of "Whatever Happened
is nice, even though the drums are canned and not very traditional.
The song is filled with heart and is my vote for outstanding radio
single for this record. Heatherly rocks it out a bit on "The
Lower East Side Of Life", almost attaining a rockabilly feel,
while staying nestled comfortably in the country niche - but the guitar
solo is spectacular, filled with hints of twang, and tons of brilliant
double stop chops. The real country finally jumps out from underneath
the contemporary coverings on "Way Down"
track that hearkens back to the Oak Ridge Boys, but has all the gutsy
rock of Merle Haggard and John Cash. If only this song
had entered the album earlier and been the rule, rather than the exception,
TLESOL would have been a much more spectacular ride.
The Lower East Side Of Life is a perfect album for those that
are finally beginning to realize that the current fluff of top 40
country radio is no longer meaningful, and are looking for a somewhat
easy way to begin their ascent into the world of real country music.
With George Strait forsaking the down home, and Randy Travis
drifting off in numerous directions and losing focus, Eric Heatherly
just may be the artist that saves the Nashville country scene.
1. Judging Beauty
2. Hang It On Your Heart
5. Whatever Happened
6. The Lower East Side Of Life
7. Who Needs Enemies (With Family Like You)
8. Dark Days
9. Go Where You Hide
10. Love Story Love
11. Way Down
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