Listen Up: Wednesday, April 26, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Eric Hisaw

The Crosses (Saustex Media)

By Jeff Prince

Two things — one good, one bad — immediately jump out at the listener when spinning Eric Hisaw’s latest, The Crosses. Let’s start with “the bad.” Someone obviously had difficulty in recording Hisaw’s strangled voice, which is unique and interesting but hard to describe. Imagine a cross between Steve Forbert, Dr. Hook, and Clint Eastwood. I’m serious. Hisaw’s range and power are limited, and his low notes disintegrate into inaudible whispers. Lyrics, his lifeblood, get lost in the mix. Frail vocals can be strengthened in the studio with the right knob twirler at the soundboard, so tar and feather the producer! Oh, wait. Hisaw produced and co-mixed.

What probably went wrong is something common among self-recorded artists: They are so familiar with their own lyrics that it’s easy for them to hear and understand every word during studio playbacks. First-time listeners, however, aren’t in a studio with kick-ass speakers and headphones. We’re rattling down Jacksboro Highway, playing the c.d. in Ford F-150’s with stock stereos. But, truth be told, Hisaw’s strained voice isn’t really a big liability in Texas Music, in which fans prefer singers to sound as if they just woke up after three days of primal scream therapy and gargled with Drano. Hisaw’s ravaged pipes are suitable to showcase his material, which brings us to “the good.”

The songs.

Hisaw sees with a poet’s eye, examining a variety of topics and sprinkling in tiny details that make these stories sparkle. On “Right Now,” Hisaw envisions scenes found in every town: “Right now there’s an apartment / Smells like molded carpet / Toys from the Goodwill / Scattered on the floor.” His melodies and hooks are beguiling and stick in the head. His acoustic and electric guitar playing aren’t flashy but perfectly complement these songs and give the album an edgy continuity that gets lost when artists depend on studio pickers and freelance hotshots. He’s fairly young (32) and rakish and so he’s got marketing potential. He’ll probably have to squeeze more out of his vocals to get much radio airplay, but he’s got the goods to blaze a distinctive trail for himself in a crowded Texas Music scene, although he’d better hurry. The original Texas Music Outlaw movement of the 1970s, which contained more superior singers and songwriters than the current scene, died out after a decade. Today’s Outlaw movement is already in its second 10 years. As Hisaw sings in “Wasted My Time,” opportunity “knocks soft and then goes its way.”


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