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.
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.
np – Evangelicals / So Gone