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The Payne Anthology. You can be sure he chuckled to himself a little when he came up with that title, and of course he'd be beside himself when he found the street sign. Yet you have to watch our Mr. Blakely carefully, because beneath all the self-deprecation there's a heart that feels. An early title for this collection was Been There Done That, and that had two sides to it. Coming from a performer whose work drew on both his own experiences and a well-exercised sense of empathy and fellow-feeling the message was "I've lived my songs." He came to Texas from the West Coast; his first musical endeavors were based in Power Pop. The pop sensibility still shines brightly, but after more than a decade in Austin it's viewed through a more rocky and rootsy filter. The attentive listener will soon appreciate that under the wit and lightness he is often candidly evoking life-changing events. He'd jumped straight into the musical life of the city, running an open mic night at the Austin Outhouse and recording a whole gamut of artistes at his Folk Reels studio. When he came to make the three albums from which the bulk of this selection is drawn his friends were there to help him out. Friends of the stature of Marcia Ball, John Inmon, Guy Forsyth, Tom Pitman, Lisa Mednick, Jesse "Guitar" Taylor, as well as eminent out-of-towners like Chris von Sneidern and Paul Collins. The songs gathered here are stories of his life and family. Grandma Likes A Tin Roof recounts his adolescence. Like the rain it serves as a cue to memory. It's made particularly haunting by Larry Tracy's pedal steel guitar, and that's his late grandmother's voice providing the poetic prelude. Uncle John's Farm is a similar invocation : "I learned to laugh, I learned to love, I learned to live, on Uncle John's farm." He can appear to tell a tale against himself, as in First Night In Paris, or as in both A Lot Better Off and Build Myself A Castle set himself up as the fall guy, but underneath he will always be hinting at some unfulfilled longings. These bitter-sweet nuances provide the frisson of emotional ambiguity that mean these songs are rather more than just well-made. And then in the plaintive Like A Wheel or the joyful surprise of Hell Or High Water those emotions will be out living and breathing in the clear light of day. For an introduction to Eric Blakely you could ask for no better than this, but as a Payne Anthology you are going to find there are rather too many pleasures.
LONDON, ENGLAND APRIL 2002
New CD Review
Eric Blakely - 'The Payne Anthology' Folk Reel FR009
Berkeley, California-raised and Austin, Texas-based Blakely has often hidden his not insubstantial light under a bushel, either as a sideman for others (Troy Young Cambell, Matt Backer, and Micky Kemp recently) or managing his own Folk Reels studio on Austin's Payne Avenue (hence the name). This compilation, comprising tracks from his previous albums, therefore acts as a reintroduction to his solo wwork. Somewhat alarmingly, if this is to be seen as wholly representative of Blakely's songwriting, midlife introspection is very much the order of the day, not least on "Build Myself A Castle" (autobiograpy), "A Lot Better Off" (marriage), and "Growing Into My Father's Clothes" (self-explanatory). One might indeed have the urge to suggest he snap out of it, but there's little moodiness here. Instead, he approaches his subject matter with wit and/or tenderness as necessary, but mostly the former. Neither should it be assumed that Blakely is afraid to rock. While many hotshot guitarists grace this compilation, such as John Inmon and Jesse 'Guitar' Taylor, Blakely is a thoroughly competant and thrilling player in his own right. Now that Blakely's become a frequent visitor to the UK and Europe, this release is an ideal - nay, essential - introduction to this (almost) authentic Texas troubadour.
Gerry Ranson - "Bucketfull of Brains" (issue # 66 Summer 2003)
is Blakely's 3rd independent CD release.
Levity is a collection of 11 new songs by Austin, Texas singer/songwriter Eric Blakely. This new collection was written, recorded and produced by Blakely. Two songs were co-written; Love Used To Come Easy was written with Rayanne Wert and
Back Again with William Reuter
Eric's first CD launched the CMT video of "Uncle John's Farm" from the album of the same name. Eric was one of only a few independent artists to be picked up by the Nashville network's major league video program.
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