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Eric Bachmann

To the Races

Saddle Creek


The story goes that Eric Bachmann wrote the collection of songs that make up To the Races (Saddle Creek Records) while voluntarily living in the back of his van somewhere in Seattle. It makes sense when you hear a song like "Home," a simple guitar-and-voice rambler but with a mellow, smoky violin that provides a perfect counter to Bachmann's own lonely rasp, singing a love song to the only lady he wants to know -- the one up in the sky surrounded by all those stars that are his only friends. You can almost imagine Bachmann, ripe with stink, stepping outside that van one clear evening and baying at the moon, a crazy strung-out golden-throated hermit who trusts no one and expects no trust in return.

In simple terms, the collection is a continuation of the stories Bachmann writes so well as part of his band Crooked Fingers, a band whose sweet indie lullabies mask stories of death and loss, all-too-often sung in a voice that Neil Diamond would happily kill Rick Rubin for. On To the Races, Bachmann is that sad, angry friend we've all known at some point in our lives, hardened by a string of bad luck and bad decisions; he knows nothing will ever go his way again. He doesn't want your pity; he just wants to be left alone.

On "Carrboro Woman," Bachmann seeks a companion for a journey to "a place he has to go, but doesn't want to go alone." But when he finds a taker, he makes it clear, "You ain't my woman / And woman I am not your man." On "Genevieve," a desperate Bachmann can't get a woman out of his mind, even though he's declared, "What I cannot have I do not want." While on the desperate junkie daydream "Genie Genie," Bachmann rubs on every bottle he can get his hands on wishing for "A million dollars / A lonely women / Lots of pills / Give me something / I'm looking for something." But once he finds it, chances are he'll just throw it away.

Take solace in the fact that while you listen to his paranoid fantasies of loneliness and despair, you'll be lulled to a comfortable place furnished in lush finger-picking guitar, chiming piano, ragged harmonica and the swell of an unexpected violin. Bachmann's songs, as stark and aching as they may be, are nothing less than purely gorgeous, like all his friends up in the sky.

back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes)   Posted Sept. 27, 2006. Copyright © 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Rating: Yes

Obligatory pull-quote: "Bachmann's songs, as stark and aching as they may be, are nothing less than purely gorgeous, like all his friends up in the sky."