Record Review - 1 June 05 2002

Remembered by many as the frontman for '90s indie darlings Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann re-emerged in 2000, setting aside jagged, jangly college rock and wrapping his Crooked Fingers around dusky dirges. With his earnest rasp, rising cigarette- and whiskey-seared from beneath a burden to deliver a weight all its own, Bachmann follows in the fine tradition of brooding, bleak storytellers such as Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen (on whose Sub Pop tribute, Badlands, Bachmann performed "Mansion on the Hill"). He sings of the desperate with a drunken intimacy that's almost strangulating.

With his latest, the five-song Reservoir Songs EP, the now Atlanta-based Bachmann covers tunes by Kris Kristofferson, Neil Diamond, Prince, Springsteen and Queen (with David Bowie), almost all of which he has performed live. He approaches the interpretations admirably, conjuring the originals' spirits, if not the voices. Multiple layers of plucked banjos and guitars, droning cellos, shuffling drums, and elliptical ambient moans recast "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Solitary Man," "When U Were Mine" and "The River," making for hauntingly forlorn Appalachian folk. "Under Pressure," (minus the signature bass line) closes the disc with the bittersweet stomp of an Irish wake.

It's one thing to have character, and another to breathe life into characters — especially those that are not your own.

Crooked Fingers performs at The Earl Tues., June 11.??