Reviews

To The Races

Author: Laura Hamlett
08/28/2006 | Playback St Louis | www.playbackstl.com | Feature
Exile does strange things to a person. We're so conditioned to living and interacting in the presence—desired or not—of others, that the mere fact of solitude is unfamiliar, if not downright uncomfortable.

Self-imposed exile, however, is another story entirely. In the summer of 2005,Eric Bachmann chose to drive his touring van to the Northwest and literally set up house. For three months, Bachmann lived in his van, all the while capturing the sparks and inspiration that would become To the Races.

In December, Bachmann and his songs headed to North Carolina's Outer Banks, where To the Races was recorded in one week's time. With only a couple of guest musicians—DeVotchKa's Tom Hagerman on violin and Austin, Texas' Amanda Brown on backing vocals—the album effectively captures and examines human isolation and solitude.

With four prior releases under the Crooked Fingers moniker (most recently, 2005's Dignity and Shame, on Merge), To the Races marks Bachmann's most personal and probing effort to date. It's fitting, then, that it also marks his debut offering under his own name.

With sparse but beautiful accompaniment (the aforementioned strings, light backing vocals, an occasional harmonica, plus the usual strummed guitar), To the Races presents a stripped-down, careful listen. Bachmann's voice is more isolated and, as such, tentative, competent, almost sweet. It's a return to the singer-songwriter roots, to be sure, as Bachmann channels Bob Dylan, or a present-day Steve Earle. Not protest music, this, but an examination of the human spirit, a fitting addition to the Saddle Creek roster.
To The Races

To The Races

CD / MP3