Eric Hisaw Ghost Stories
Eric Hisaw (pronounced High Saw) has been in the game long enough for one reviewer to describe him as a “journeyman” musician. There’s no disrespect in that label, suggesting as it does someone who’ll get the job done, and get it done well. After twenty years or so in the business you suspect the possibility of stardom has passed him by, but the man’s got a strong back catalogue and a new album that just might boost his profile a bit.
Roadhouse rock, he calls it, and my wife pointed out a similarity to Graham Parker that helped me pin down why I’ve been enjoying Ghost Stories so much. There’s a bit of attitude and a bit of soul in Eric Hisaw’s vocals that do indeed recall GP in his glory days, but it’s the music that really makes the link; this is guitar music with a dose of country in there and a strong memory of the original rhythm’n’blues. Sometimes it’s Ron Flynt’s Hammond organ boosting the sound, sometimes it’s Lloyd Maines’ pedal steel, but whichever it is, there’s a comfortable familiarity in these arrangements if you’ve been enjoying your rock music as long as I have (which I guess is pushing on for forty years). The biggest pleasure came in hearing the big nod to Chuck Berry, particularly on Track 2, Johnston County. Chuck Berry sometimes seems like the forgotten man of rock’s founding fathers, but listen to the rhythm and lead guitars on this track and you’ll be hearing one man who hasn’t forgotten just how vital Chuck’s music was – and I mean vital in the sense of brimming with life, strutting like a young man in the full vigour of his youth.
Eric Hisaw’s songs are little vignettes from life on the road, stories written in the moments when emotions are acute, and he marries them to tunes which lodge quickly in the brain. Even at his most mellow there’s a gruff manliness to his style which feels honest and straightforward; the gentlest song here, Payphone, has him standing in a puddle in a Louisiana payphone trying to negotiate his way through a problematic love life, and this certainly has the ring of real experience behind it.
It’s always a pleasure to hear Lloyd Maines on record but the big contributions on this disc come from Eric’s long term musical buddy Ron Flynt on bass and keyboards, the excellent Vicente Rodriguez on drums and Eric himself on all guitars. Ghost Stories might not set the world on fire with the “thrill of the new”, but it does feel like proper roots rock, solidly satisfying.