Eric Hanke - Factory Man
2010, Ten Foot Texan Records
2010, Ten Foot Texan Records
Eric Hanke is a great singer/songwriter in, though not necessarily of, the Texas tradition. Born in Michigan but raised in Dallas, Hanke writes what he knows with a no-B.S. style that's compelling. Everyday inspirations turn into art on his latest album, Factory Man. Produced by Merel Bregante (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Loggins & Messina), Factory Man combines a Midwestern working class sensibility with an eerie ability to bring characters and places to life in song, drawn across the musical and cultural crossbones of rock, country, blues, folk and soul.
Factory Man opens with "It Ain't Really Love", a catchy bit of rockabilly with an R&B backbeat. The song is catchy enough to have commercial legs, but has an old-school feel that's universally appealing. "Never Gonna Leave You Now" documents a working man's devotion in song. There's a middle of the road style here that is fitting, and Hanke's melody is classic. "Factory Man" portrays the hopelessness of a rust belt town where opportunity is in the past and tomorrow rests on the edge of oblivion. Hanke explores the loss of jobs overseas and the stoic grace of a working class forgotten by the country they built.
"Keep My Love" is a pensive love song; an entreaty to not forget him even the one he loves moves on. It's a solid album track worth a listen or two. Hanke expresses the hopes of a father for his son on "Hope Your Dreams Come True". This one will touch the heart strings, and would play well as a Country/Adult Contemporary crossover track. "Mr. Slim's Blues" is an inspired piece drawn from long conversations with an old neighbor who felt the only evils in the world were money and women. Hanke imbues the song with a spritely energy that's almost mischievous at times. "Burn It Down" is pure rocking country, a bit of a musical release that's perfectly placed.
"Gotta Little" is all about appreciating the little things in life as building blocks to something greater, while remembering to be happy with what you have. This is a fun tune with a non-oppressive moral and enough pop sensibility to be embraced by country radio. "Been Knocked Down" is a solid piece of melodic country pop, and sets the stage for the closer, "No More Tears". This last is a solid story-song that seems more fitting to somewhere in the middle of the album than the end. It's a solid song, but perhaps something of a letdown as a closing track.
Eric Hanke shows what great songwriters are capable of in spots on Factory Man. With an exceedingly pleasant voice and a knack for turning a phrase, Hanke shows real flashes of excellent through Factory Man. There's no real Wow moment here to draw it all together, but such things can be deceiving. Don't be surprised if we look back in time and realize that Hanke was just one long slow build, with excellence emerging as slowly and as unstoppably as a glacial advance. Factory Man may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Eric Hanke at www.erichanke.com or www.myspace.com/erichankeband. Factory Man is available digitally from Amazon.com and iTunes.