Article in Vision Newspaper
EVERY GOOD WESTERN SONG TELLS A STORY
CLARENCE CREEK- ERIC MICHAEL HAWKS wasn't born listening to country and western music. But it may be that he was born to play it.
With his first album out, the self-titled ERIC MICHAEL HAWKS, his new career in country-western seems to be taking flight like a hawk, fast and furious. Folks seem to enjoy listening to his songs as much as he enjoys writing and singing them. He's getting airplay, both on regular FM radio and through the internet stations, and he's starting to make an impression on the European country-western music scene, with some nice early reviews of his album.
Which is all good. Though it might have gone another way and he might have gone another way and he might have been going head-to-head with the current tidal wave of would-be Canadian and American pop idols fighting for their 15 nanoseconds of YouTube fame.
"I wasn't born in country music," he said, smiling. "My father's music was The Supremes, Elvis, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison and such. The closest thing we had to country music was Gordon Lightfoot."
Like a lot of teenagers back then, he grew up on rock music. The bands he and his mates knew by name were ZZ Top, The Allman Brothers Band, and most likely anyone from the Muscle Shoals region.
Until one day he got to wondering what his favorite bands liked to listen to when they weren't playing concerts or sitting in the recording studio. That's when he discovered good ol' country & western music. "I wanted to find the roots of all this," he said, while Waylon Jennings sings about tough times on the radio. "These are stories, country & western. They're not all just love ballads. I never looked back after that."
Those are the kinds of songs he writes and sings on his album. Every song tells a story. "I've been a long-haul trucker," he said. "That helped me with my songwriting. When I was driving, I had my guitar with me and a scratch pad."
He grins when he talks about some of the songs featured on his debut album. "I'm old style but with a new twist on things. It's got that traditional country-western feel but there's also a modern touch."
The last song on the album, "I DUG MY HEELS (IN FLANDERS FIELDS)" is a tribute to his grandfather, who fought in World War Two, and to family members killed in action during the Korean War.
Hawk's plans now are divided between going on local concert gigs with his band, THE SILVER DOLLAR BAND, putting together another album, and writing more songs to tell stories he knows. "I think people, in the end, they really like to hear story songs," he said. "It's real life."
EDITED IN PARTS
BY: GREGG CHAMBERLAIN VISION NEWSPAPER
Review by Americanrootsuk.com
A really good album that is a natural progression from the ‘Outlaw country’ of people such as Waylon Jennings. Some excellent songs, with atmospheric deep raw vocals.
Review by G.W. Hill
Hawks wastes no time getting to the meat of the album, launching it out with a great old time country music stomper called “Whiskey Drinkin’ Cowboy.” There’s some particularly tasty guitar soloing on the piece. Fiddle playing features prominently, too, along with slide guitar. All in all, this feels like it could have come out in the 1970s (or even earlier) from any number of outlaw country acts, at least in terms of style. Hawks proves he can do it in style and with conviction.
“A Good Woman’s Love” brings things down in terms of volume and pace. It’s a country ballad and Hawks deep down vocals work really well in this. The familiar slide guitar and other country arrangement standard features are included here, too. This is another that seems rooted in an older, more legitimate country music era.
The arrangement on “Living by the Gun” feels a bit like “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones at times. It’s a mellow and quite sad ballad that’s very pretty. The arrangement leans more towards a southern rock sound than the two openers did, but it’s far from the “pop” music that sometimes passes for country. The tune is definitely real country music. The opening of “Lay Down the Law” has a lot more energy, feeling a bit like Southern rock. The cut has a more pure country as it continues. The vocal performance is particularly inspired and the tune is one of the best on a set of great music.
“The Devil Made a Sinner Out of Me” is the most unusual track of the whole album. It’s got an old time gospel element to it, as the title suggests. Additionally, it’s very energetic and feels rather playful. It’s got some definite ties to rockabilly and seems pretty down-home at the same time. A fun cut, it’s a nice change of pace and works quite well in relationship to the music around it. There’s a real hoe-down element to “Blazin’ in the Saddle.” It’s another with a lot of energy. It has one of the catchiest choruses of anything here. It’s also one of the highlights of the disc. The instrumental section on this tune is particularly effective and really feels like something from bygone eras.
“Wild Texas Rose” is a mellow, balladic cut that has a bit of a “cowboy” music element to it. It’s another point where Hawks’ deep voice really adds a lot to the mix. “Mean Woman Blues” has a shuffling, old fashioned country sound that’s both tastefully retro and a lot of fun. It’s another nice change, and in a lot of ways a highlight. The honky tonk piano bit is a nice touch to it.
The most rock oriented tune on the whole set is “Cowboy with the Cowboy Boots.” It feels a bit like something The Allman Brothers might have done. There’s a lot of bluesy rock in the mix, but still enough country to keep it legitimate. The instrumental section later has a real country meets jam band vibe to it. The closing cut, “I Dug My Heels (In Flanders Fields)” is quite mellow. The acoustic guitar that opens it is quite intricate and some of the vocals are spoken.........
There isn’t a bad song in the bunch here. Hawks provides plenty of variety, too. Everything seems to be delivered with a genuine attachment to real country music traditions and Hawks and the musicians featured here are all quite good........
Artist: Eric Michael Hawks
Title: Eric Michael Hawks
Review by G. W. Hill
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Review by Andrew Greenhalgh
And sometimes, the fans’ desires just might work to change the artist’s life for the better as well.
Such is the case with Canada-based country singer, Eric Michael Hawks. The former long-haul truck driver has been writing songs since the ripe age of 13 and boasts a keen love of country music, dubbing himself a “walking, talking country music encyclopedia.” More recent days have seen the artist performing as part of the band, Double Odd Buck, when fans and family increasingly began clamoring for him to record an album.
Enter producer Bobby Lalonde. That meeting set Hawks on the right path and Lalonde resonated with the artist’s initial demo. He enlisted the help of some solid players, getting Steve Piticco (Merle Haggard, Ricky Skaggs) on guitar, Adam Lalonde on drums, Jean-Guy Grenier on pedal steel, and John McDiarmid on piano. Add to that producer Lalonde’s, who’s shared the stage with the likes of Johnny Cash, George Jones, among others, virtuosity on everything from bass, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle. It’s a who’s who of Canadian musicians who, ironically, help to produce some of the best Texas-flavored country heard in a long time.
Hawks opens the album up with the rousing “Whisky Drinking Cowboy,” a track that recalls the best of artists like Merle Haggard and George Jones, with its classic country soundscape, colored in with plucky guitars and tasty fiddle fills. “A Good Woman’s Love” anchors itself on more of those fiddle notes, crafting a barroom waltz of love spoken/sung by Hawks rich baritone and accented with pedal steel. A romp through the old West is what “Living By the Gun” holds in store, it’s tale of a world-weary gunslinger anchored by acoustic guitar, mournful fiddle, and a moving vocal from Hawks. It’s a great story and an even better song.
“Lay Down the Law” gets things plugged back in and moving again, pedal steel providing some color over against the toe-tapping backbeat hammered out by Adam Lalonde while “The Devil Made a Sinner Out of Me” recalls Hank Jr. and Charlie Daniels with it’s playful lyric and resonant vocal delivery. The arrangement is solid and the delivery even better as Hawks keeps things moving all around. The tempo keeps going with “Blazin’ In the Saddle,” a mid-tempo rambling tale that lets all the players showcase their skills, the electric guitar of Steve Piticco holding strong.
Images of prairie come to the mind on the gently moving “Wild Texas Rose,” telling a tale of a gentle and beloved soul before unleashing the playful, fiddle-fueled fury that is “Mean Woman Blues.” The pedal steel keeps things grounded while McDiarmid’s piano conjures images of classic honky-tonk classics. “Cowboy With the Cowboy Boots” is tinged with just a touch of blues, the guitar taking the lead and the bass thumping out a solid hook before letting the fiddle color in the chorus as Hawks ends things out on a quieter note with “I Dug My Heels (In Flanders Fields).” Another track half spoken, half sung by the artist, it’s honest and warm and really showcases some of Hawk’s intangibles, most notably among them his ability to tell a compelling story.
And that story will hopefully continue along with the success of Eric Michael Hawks and this, his debut record. Hawks is that rare diamond in the rough, an artist who possesses something of substance and has been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. And while there’s always room for improvement, Hawks and Co. have compiled a strong set list of songs that should and will appeal to fans of classic country everywhere.
Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh
Review by Matheson Kamin
Eric Michael Hawks just released an album of Country music that would make Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings or even Patsy Cline proud. The music contained within Eric Michael Hawks’ new self-titled album has a lot of the same feel of music from days gone by when there was a much simpler feel to the music. To help bring his musical vision to life, Hawks is joined on the release by Bobby Lalonde on fiddle, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo; John McDiarmid on piano; Adam Lalonde on drums; Steve Piticco on guitar and Jean-Guy Grenier on pedal steel guitar. This group of musicians
The self-titled release from Eric Michael Hawks begins with the track “Whiskey Drinkin’ Cowboy”. “Whiskey Drinkin’ Cowboy” is a song about enjoying yourself having a drink while listening to some of the heroes of Country music is just the thing for fans of that classic style. The song features fiddle from Bobby Lalonde and Jean-Guy Grenier on pedal steel guitar that really brings out that Country feel to the track.
“A Good Woman’s Love” continues in the same style of Country. The lyrics of the love song bring back the feeling of the past with a simplicity that you just do find today. The easy feel to the track helps to give more emphasis to the lyrics of the song.
“Living by the Gun” is a track that features a storytelling style that is reminiscent of a song like Marty Robbins’ “El Paso”. The song even has the same type of unfortunate outcome as that song. The lyrics of “Living by the Gun” are both emotional and powerful, especially as the song reaches its sad ending.
“Lay down the Law” helps to bring a little light-heartedness back to the album after the more serious nature of the previous track. “Lay Down the Law” finds Eric Michael Hawks saying it the way it is and how it’s going to be. The song is one of the tracks on the release that sounds like something that would have been played on the radio a few years ago.
Like a lot of the old Country music from years back, the song “The Devil Made a Sinner Out of Me” has a religious message to the lyrics while not being that preachy. The music to the track is very upbeat and shows off the talent of fiddle player Bobby Lalonde and steel guitar player Jean-Guy Grenier as they help to capture the Country feel to the song.
Another track that features a storytelling style is the song “Blazin’ in the Saddle”. The track has a feel that brings back the memory of songs like “Convoy” by C.W. McCall.
Listening to the self-titled album from Canadian-based Country musician Eric Michael Hawks is like taking a trip back to the past. And this is a good thing. The music from Hawks has such an authentic feel to it, it’s hard to imagine that this musician wasn’t actually born in a saddle of a horse down in Texas. The self-titled album from Eric Michael Hawks is as good as anything from artists that were part of the music industry many years ago. It’s great to see that there are those people who want to keep the memory of classic Country music alive. And with his new release, Eric Michael Hawks is doing just that.
Review by Matheson Kamin
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Review by Heath Andrews
The session musicians working with Hawks are not members of his touring band, but they sound as if they’ve been playing with him for years given how well they play together. Hawks serves as vocalist with Steve Piticco on electric guitar, John McDiarmid on the keys, Jean-Guy Grenier on steel guitar, Adam Lalonde on drums, and Bobby Lalonde playing virtually everything else. Bobby, who also doubles as the album’s producer, is the secret weapon that gives the songs their extra flair. Aside from bass and acoustic guitar, he also contributes fiddle, banjo, and mandolin; all of which add distinctive qualities to the arrangements they’re featured in.
Lush arrangements really are at the heart of Hawks’ album. Everything you need to know about it you can hear in the first song, “Whiskey Drinking Cowboy.” From the very first second you can hear the power of Hawks’s voice and a few seconds later, the power of the band. There’s a lot of things to hear all at once; the picking of Piticco’s guitar, the cry of Grenier’s steel, Bobby’s beautiful fiddle and rhythm banjo, all on top of Adam Lalonde’s rock solid drumming. Hawks could be singing anything and it would be sounding great in this context. What he is singing though falls back to an old country music cliché of the joy of drinking. But again, Hawks isn’t here to reinvent the wheel, just polish it up a little.
Another example of this is the country/blues of “Mean Woman Blues.” If alcohol is one big subject for country music, women are certainly the other. This short, quick paced romp sports a more stripped down guitar arrangement that also makes room for McDiarmid’s piano. The keys add a great sound to the music, one that is further enhanced by the solo that McDiarmid breaks into a little past halfway through. And then there are little touches like Bobby’s backing vocals that help accentuate and add some melodic quality to Hawks more forceful singing.
The middle of the album is wonderfully exciting with the back to back combination of “The Devil’s Made a Sinner Out of Me,” and “Blazin’ in the Saddle.” The former is especially notable for the blistering pace that Lalonde maintains on the drums from start to finish. He keeps the song driving ever forward while Bobby quickly saws on his fiddle and the guitars resonate with and around it. McDiarmid’s piano also comes up again and keeps the melody during the second verse. It’s an interesting shift from the guitars and a clever twist to the songwriting. The latter of the two isn’t as high energy from start to finish; the verses are slower and act as a build-up to the big sound of the chorus. That being said, the chorus is phenomenally catchy and prominently features that big, lush sound that typifies the album.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are two slower, more poignant songs. The first of them, “Wild Texas Rose” prominently features the fiddle and steel guitar in order to convey its mournful tone. Hawks’ voice is suitably mellowed here, he trades in his power for a more measured, considerate tone. The ¾ time signature also gives the song a waltz-y atmosphere, even more fitting with the romantic, affectionate lyric. Meanwhile the final song, “I Dug My Heels (In Flanders Field)” is the most unique track here. The track opens in remarkably stark fashion, with the emphasis entirely on Hawks’s voice and words. Eventually the song builds in its instrumentation, but the mood is still somber in its theme of remembrance and loss. It’s a very vulnerable side of Hawks that we hear on this song, and it’s quite a memorable one. Ending the album on this note is wise; the impression is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.
Eric Michael Hawks has constructed a solid set of songs to lend his great voice and exceptionally talented session musicians to. His self-titled album is sure to please fans of country music, especially those who long for a traditional kind of sound. And that is where Hawks truly excels; he draws from the past but doesn’t lean on it so heavily that it sounds too familiar.
Review by: Heath Andrews