June 2006

Eric Hanke - Autumn Blues
Ten Foot Texan Records TFTR00101
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by John Crossett

Musical Performance **1/2
Recording Quality **
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

Following in the Texas singer/songwriter tradition that stretches from Willie Nelson through Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen to the late Townes Van Zant, newcomer Eric Hanke has big shoes to fill. That he does not completely manage to do so is of lesser importance than his effort. As debut albums go, Autumn Blues shows promise, indicating that someday Hanke might join that august group of Texas singer/songwriters.

Autumn Blues is a bit of an uneven ride. At its worst it is a bit predictable. At its best, during such songs as the title track, "The War" (a protest song that’ll make you ask why we get involved at all), my personal favorite "Smoke Through An Old Screen Door" (which will remind you of a young John Prine's work), and "Sun’s Gonna Shine," the music glows with direction and assurance. Producer/engineer/drummer Merle Bregante uses a multitude of instruments and still manages a sparse, folksy sound.

Sonically, this disc is as uneven as the songs it contains. Hanke’s voice is clearly reproduced, with a fair amount of three-dimensional effect, but the harmony vocalists get lost in the mix. Acoustic instruments fare well, especially the guitars. Bregante’s drums don’t quite have the snap of real life, and the bass is the weakest point. While there, it is not well defined.

Still, Autumn Blues remains a fair initial effort that, again, shows promise.