North Carolina singer/songwriter Eric Bachmann closes the book on his long-running Crooked Fingers project and marks a new era with his self-titled third solo LP. In truth, Crooked Fingers was essentially a post-Archers of Loaf solo vehicle, and with each of its six albums, it tended to take on whatever flavors Bachmann was exploring at the time. Of the two existing efforts under his own name, only 2006's sparsely appointed To the Races really bears the intimate stamp of a solo album, with the other -- 2002's Short Careers -- being an entirely instrumental soundtrack to an independent film. With the stage set for a bit of reinvention, Bachmann was urged by a friend to set down his guitar and write an album on the piano. At times lush, lonesome, and deeply personal, the nine songs on Eric Bachmann manage to explore some new sonic territories for the veteran songwriter while remaining true to his canon. Opening with "Belong to You," a sweeping Americana ballad worthy of his home state's winding Appalachian roads, Bachmann takes a turn toward vintage pop with the robust doo wop arrangement of "Mercy." The use of female vocalists as conversational counterpoint was a common occurrence with Crooked Fingers and he employs it again here in broader strokes, layering the album with elaborate backing vocal harmonies, especially on songs like "Dreaming," "Small Talk," and the wonderfully hooky "Separation Fight." Pedal steel and slide guitar thread their way in and out of songs which, even at their sparest moments, feel somewhat grandiose in comparison to Bachmann's earlier solo output and certainly more so than 2011's stripped-down Breaks in the Armor, his last album as Crooked Fingers. It's a thoughtful and neatly crafted album whose detailed framework feels like the right fit for Bachmann's rugged, world-weary meditations.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger