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Eric Heatherly
The Lower East Side Of Life
Koch Records Nashville

I've got to come right out and admit that I had high hopes for this album… 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"… a brilliant 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.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Judging Beauty
2. Hang It On Your Heart
3. Job
4. Ruin
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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