Eric Steckel Ė Feels like home
Independent release ESB45
Originally from Pennsylvania and now based in Jacksonville, Florida, this is Eric Steckelís fourth CD and he is only 17! His previous release was distributed in Europe by Rounder and he has toured in Holland, Belgium and Italy.
The new CD is a significant step forward as Ericís singing voice and song construction have matured to go alongside his already excellent guitar work. Having had the pleasure of seeing him play live I can assure you that his guitar playing is amazing Ė fluent, emotional and apparently effortless.
For this CD Eric is supported by Duane Trucks (younger brother of Derek) on drums and Mike Esposito on bass. Eric plays all guitars and organ, with old friend Craig Thatcher guesting on the fourth track, Donít look behind, a moody, heavy tune, not dissimilar to the CD opener Just walk away, a riff driven rocker with strong organ support to the guitar. The title song is a rousing, anthemic chorus which expresses clearly how at home on stage Eric feels. Something better is another mid-paced, melodic tune in a similar style.
One of the highlights of the CD is Southern Skyline, an instrumental that recalls vintage Allman Brothers and Dicky Betts in particular. The guitar riff is extremely catchy and you really donít want this track to come to an end!
Two tracks in the middle of the CD make an interesting contrast. Smiliní liar opens with Eric on solo slide dobro, then adding acoustic guitar under the vocal which warns us against those who try to sell us things, including politics; did anyone note that itís election year! That is followed by one of the few covers and itís Robert Johnsonís Come on in my kitchen, a song that often appears in a version not dissimilar to the previous track. Here Eric adopts a heavier approach, alone on electric guitar and vocals.
From time to time (written by James Armstrong) is a shuffle with a blistering solo from Eric and the third cover is a lengthy run through Donny Hathawayís The Ghetto. Clocking in at over eight minutes this is almost an instrumental, as the vocal only appears in the final minute of the track. Itís an opportunity to stretch out and Eric grasps it on both guitar and organ, offering us a jazzier style of playing and a lot of very intricate work.
When ignorance turns to bliss is a slow ballad with no drums, subtle bass and echoey guitar. The final track is a solo instrumental which although entitled Tuscany does offer a rather eastern flavor and shows us yet another side of Ericís guitar playing, this time on acoustic.
Overall this CD offers a snapshot of a young man in development but already providing very high quality throughout. Definitely one to watch for the future. The CD is available from the bandís website and CD Baby. Rating: 8.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a Blues writer based in the UK! His reviews have been published in Blues In Britain magazine. He travels widely to see blues and has been to San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Springing the Blues festivals as well as spending time in Chicago and Memphis.