NOTE: This blog originally appeared in an expanded form on Country Fried Rock. The Country Fried Rock weekly radio program includes 9 songs and an in-depth interview with a roots musician–the best hour in roots radio anywhere.
In some parts of the South, you might live there for eighty years, but locals will still say, “Well, you’re from Michigan.” Texas is different; if you say you’re a Texan, you are. You might not be from there, but you got there as fast as you could. By that definition, Eric Hanke is a Texan. His parents brought him to Dallas from Michigan as a toddler, and he never left–except for that long semester in Germany tracing his roots.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and Hanke is no exception. At over 6’8″ tall, he nearly matches his business name, Ten Foot Texan. For all the superlatives of Texas, though, Hanke’s music reins in the excess, for an exuberant but not flamboyant take on roots music that works as well in a dance hall as it does in a listening room. Any musician who can placate a South Padre Island bar crowd of tourists and salty regulars repeatedly–while never playing a Buffett tune–has exceptional talent.
Hanke’s recent record, Factory Man, brings out the honky-tonk in his songwriting. After quite a bit of self-analysis regarding his music, Eric determined that he just wants his music to make people feel good. Whether it’s good enough to jump up and dance, or just make you feel better about what your life is, that’s all okay. Some of his friends and collaborators play on this recording, like noted steel player, Cindy Cashdollar, and producer-bandmate, Merel Bregante.
Hanke released Factory Man in recognition of the fading lifestyle of his grandfather, a German immigrant to Michigan, who worked in a factory his entire life. As major American industries move overseas and immigration becomes viewed as negatively impacting our economy, regular people question their hopes for the type of American dream of previous generations. While the topic may be heady, the album as a whole is fun. Both lyrics fans and those who listen for the music will enjoy Eric Hanke’s Factory Man.