Eric Lambert, Indiana “Feel Good” Music Man – Maiden Voyage
How many flat pickers does it take to change a lightbulb? At least five. One to change the bulb and four to say, “I can do that faster.” How many Eric Lamberts does it take to put a smile on your face? Just one. There is only one Eric “Feel Good” Lambert.
I have been around flat pickers for a long long time. I’ve attended the Walnut Valley Festival, in Winfield, KS, home of the National Flat Pick Championships, for over thirty years. I’ve seen ‘em pick faster than lightening and cleaner than ozonated air. I’ve seen ‘em pick moderately, filling each measure as full of notes as you can get. I’ve seen ‘em pick as slow as Norman Blake likes to go sometimes, smoothly loping along getting as much out of a melody as one possibly can without being guilty of overkill. I’ve seen a lot of flat pickers.
What’s a flat picker? Generally speaking, it’s someone who plays fiddle tunes on an acoustic guitar with a flat pick, or a plectrum, as it has been called. I’ve never heard any one say plectrum, actually, that “don’t mean it ain’t so”. In the old days, shortly before I was born, acoustic guitar leads in country and bluegrass bands rarely happened. They were considered novelty. Folks like Bradley Kincaid and Jimmy Rogers got away with recording bass runs on the flat top guitar. In the 50‘s, Bluegrass guitarists like Don Reno got brave and took leads while in the 60’s, Doc Watson and Clarence White both brought the acoustic guitar as a lead instrument in bluegrass and old-time country music, out of the closet. Nowadays, a flatpicker is someone who picks the hell out of an acoustic guitar with a flat pick, playing fiddle tunes, rock tunes, blues tunes, original tunes, whatever the mood calls for, usually associated but not confined to, Bluegrass. In competition, it’s all about speed and cleanness.
Eric Lambert is from Lowell Indiana by way of Chicago, IL, the south side. Eric is in his fifties but centuries younger in spirit. He has a rock and roll background, sprinkled with blues. At an early age, Eric’s guitar skills were influenced by Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Eric discovered country and bluegrass music through the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Eric credits his unique Roots music sound by blending the bluegrass approaches of Tony Rice, Clarence White, and Norman Blake with those of his main influences such as B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, and Old & In The Way. While Eric has recorded three previous albums, Eric’s new record, Maiden Voyage, reflects mostly on his songwriting skills combined with his tasteful, masterful guitar work.
Maiden Voyage has Steve Haberichter on mandolin, Pat Fiddle on fiddle, Dan Rogers on bass, and Eric Lambert on guitar, dobro, and lead vocals. It was recorded at Thunderclap Recording Studio and produced by John Carpenter and Eric Lambert. Usually, when a flatpicker bills himself as a flatpicker, you can expect a record to be full of hot licks and lightening fast tunes. Eric has chosen a different course here, reflecting his personality. Eric has a ton of experience playing various styles of guitar and has applied his technique and knowledge of the fretboard to acoustic guitar. His music on Maiden Voyage is based on Bluegrass guitar but unlike most flatpickers whose ascending and descending runs usually involve one step forward, one back, two forward, and so on, giving it a deedle deedle deedle, predictable effect, Eric jumps around the neck, in sync, tastefully, within the melody he is playing.
Eric’s lyrics are earthy and rich, as track three, “Won’t Fight Alone Again” shows.
Eric is a good guy. He is genuine and real and these qualities reflect in his smile, his eyes, the happy lines that have formed in his face from over forty years of picking… his music. Eric Lambert plays “feel good music.” Even Eric’s blues are happy. What stands out to me on this endeavor is this flatpicker’s unselfish approach to arranging. Every track is a showcase of each of the contributing musicians ability to complement Eric’s songs without overkill. Pat Fiddle, a wild man of a genius on the fiddle comes close a few times, but reigns himself in. Eric told me he wanted each musician to be free in their approach to performing his music. This laid back approach creates a free, jam atmosphere in live settings. This video of “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” is a cool example of how Eric and friends transfer that “feel good” energy in a live jam setting at the Mousetrap Bar and Grille in Indianapolis, IN.
I’ve met Eric a few times. He has the gift to be able to transfer his personality, his goodness, to his plectrum. There. I said it. “plectrum.” The music of Maiden Voyage, especially the original instrumental tunes, is the kind of music that makes me want to take the first exit off the freeway, shoot down the first dirt backroad, roll down the window, turn up the player, and be adventurous. Eric’s music is adventurous. Maiden Voyage is very well produced and recorded. Each tune is well thought out and the accompanying musicians compliment Eric’s intentions. They all come together in a “feel good” way with a feel good ear friendly mix.
All of the tracks are original except “Big Legged Woman” (Leon Russell and Chris Blackwell) and “Hey Pockey Way” (the Meters). By the way, I asked Eric who Pockey Way was. I thought the lyrics pointed to a little boy he might have known. Eric told me he learned the definition from a tale told by Dr. John about the ancient native Louisiana tribes practices leading up to Mardi Gras.
“To keep an eye out for other tribes roaming around the city on Mardi Gras day, a tribe sent out the Spy Boy as a runner. If one Spy Boy bumped into another Spy Boy from some other tribe, they’d have an exchange like so: “ ‘Om bah way,’ the first Spy Boy might say. “And the other Spy Boy, if everything was cool and there wasn’t going to be no confrontation, answered: ‘Tu way pocky way.’ So, Pocky Way isn’t a place or person rather than a creole phrase meaning everything is cool:)”
My favorite track on the cd, “Senorita”, is a good example of Eric Lambert’s unselfish display of his joy and talent for putting a song together.
The album artwork was hand-drawn by American Treasure, the artist Jon Griffin; www.jiveafro.com
Learn more about Eric Lambert and his new record Maiden Voyage at www.ericlambert.com. To be released Oct 26, 2013.