Texas singer/songwriter Eric Hanke sketches out a familiar worldview in the 11 songs on his second album, Factory Man. Every lyric is sung in the first person, and most address someone in the second person, but the "I-you" structure isn't necessarily simple, or always clear. Sometimes the singer seems to be singing to himself, sometimes to a loved one or to the world in general. Sometimes the singer seems like a version of Hanke, sometimes he seems to be a character. And sometimes things seem to shift within a song. Is "Never Gonna Leave You Now," for example, a song sung by a man returning to a woman he left once before and assuring her he won't leave again? If so, how can one interpret the final verse, which begins, "Don't take nothing when you go my son"? Is the word "son" meant literally, so that the singer is actually addressing his child, in this verse or, perhaps, in the entire song? Or is he singing to himself? Similarly, the album's title song, which concerns outsourcing, begins with the singer describing his grandfather being laid off from a factory job, but by the second verse, he seems to be singing about himself, or maybe he's switched to singing in the voice of his grandfather. But whoever's doing the singing in these songs, it's clear that times are tough, and the people experiencing them are unhappy. "Burn It Down," for example, is about just that: the singer wants someone to burn the town he's living in down as he leaves. Departure is one escape from troubles; another is liquor -- 85-year-old E.J. brandy, to be specific -- and a third is hanging on to a dream, which Hanke frequently praises, although he makes it sound like that's going to be difficult. Finally (and inevitably), there's playing music. Hanke is, as he puts it in the anti-gentrification lament "East Side Blues," on the side of "the pickers and the working poor," who are seen to have a common cause. The album's picking is done by a team of country-rockers led by co-producer and drummer Merel Bregante who back Hanke with some driving music to support his twangy tenor. Bad as things may be, it seems, it's still possible to rock through hard times instead of giving in to despair.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann