February 6, 2003

Test Spin: Crooked Fingers

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Saying that Crooked Fingers’ Eric Bachmann is the next Neil Diamond, Cat Stevens, or Bruce Springsteen may not be the most convincing selling point, but it should be. Those artists — one might call them the “Parents’ Trifecta” — have/had something distinctly mysterious in their voices. They sang and people felt something, equally because of what they were singing and how they sang it.

Now that the reference points are out of the way, however, it is Bachmann’s originality and brilliance that deserves attention, because for every ounce of timeliness there is a pound of unique nowness in Crooked Fingers’ music. For instance, on “You Threw A Spark” and “Sweet Marie” (Red Devil Dawn’s most seemingly jubilant tracks), Bachmann exercises his genius as an arranger, imbueing the songs with grand horn and string parts that subtly contrast the poetically bleak lyrics with the feel of a Mexican fiesta. Throughout the ten tracks, it seems Bachmann has a marvelous time being morose, as if he finds real beauty in melancholia and desperation. “Big Darkness” could pass as a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, as it explores a small town whose only comfort is in an approaching apocalypse (“And if the evening ever comes maybe it will set things right/ ’cause in the dark even the blind can feel a speck of light”).

“Disappear” and “Carrion Doves” prove that classical and country music can coexist, even in the same song. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Red Devil Dawn is that there isn’t a single dud; every song is captivating. So now we have one-third of our own trifecta.

Archived article by Ben Kupstas