ERIC SARDINAS & BIG MOTOR Sticks & Stones Provogue (2011)
When your band is called Big Motor and your instrument of choice is an electrified resonator you just know that Eric Sardinas isn't going to be your regular rock musician. On 'Sticks & Stones' he revels in his own idiosyncratic rootsy approach which is based around pouring all his energy, emotions and visceral spontaneity into 11 intense songs that make this album his best yet.
Eric has for long been a one man link between traditional down-home southern roots music and explosive contemporary rock-blues. But more than that, he delves into the traditions of the past and reconditions them for the present but looks to the future for his own take on southern fried rock & roll.
Walter Trout once ironically called his own music 'too rock for the blues nicks and too bluesy for the rockers', and while Eric has suffered radio play list rebuffs for the same reason, 'Sticks & Stones' is the kind of barnstorming roots rock album that rides rough shod over industry labels. Since he doesn't fit easily into any one genre he's determined to blaze his own trail and leave radio programmers and critics alike languishing in his own dust storm.
The good news he's cut his best ever album for Provogue records, a label on which he sits comfortably among a roster of high profile guitarists.
Eric's albums have always been full of passionate playing and fiery solos, but 'Sticks & Stones' takes things up a step with stronger songs and a well balanced set that finds a rough edged equilibrium born of his natural exuberance and fast developing song craft. Put simply Eric Sardinas doesn't do compromise as his raison d'Ítre is simply to celebrate the moment.
And the most significant thing about 'Sticks & Stones' is that his relationship with producer Matt Gruber had matured on an album that finally offers widespread appeal for rock, blues and guitar fans alike.
The production strikes a subtle balance between Eric's rasping vocal growl and his dirt sounding resonator, as he cajoles his instrument and pushes his power trio to the limit. Gruber's triumph lies in bottling Eric's hi-octane bluster while giving him the sonic space to emphasise the melodies. The album also includes surprisingly good harmony singing and well thought out bv's as evidenced by the Stonesy riff, the call and response vocals and back-end big vista sound of 'Burning Sugar'. The song also carries the 'Sticks & Stones' line that provides the cd with its title as it works towards a grand finale.
Diehard guitar fans won't be disappointed as Sticks & Stones perfectly distils what Eric is all about. In music industry terms he may have been a square peg in around hole, but this album provides him with enough light and shade and strong songs to approach rock, blues and roots programmes alike.
The songs range form the self affirming, Johnny Winter influenced 'Cherry Wine', the flat out rocking of the aptly titled 'Full Tilt Mama', to the bone crunching 'Through The Thorns' and the low down sleazy metaphors of the solo outing 'Ratchet Blues', on which he hollers; 'It's time to seal the deal'!
So far so good, but 'Sticks & Stones' goes the extra mile as the excellent production makes the most of the down home 'County Line' with its unexpected chanted mantra 'Something Keeps Calling Me' and a choral finish. But the band crowning glory comes on the eclectically titled instrumental 'Behind The 8'on which Eric explodes into arguably the best recorded track of his career, firing on all cylinders and generating the kind of motorvatin' rhythm and hi-octane energy levels that all too few mange to achieve in a studio setting.
He does well to follow that with one of his more subtle and impressive efforts 'Goodness' as a fade-in transports us to an apparent party atmosphere on an insistent rocker full of handclaps, a swaggering vocal and an exclamatory yell for emphasis, on a song that radiates optimism; 'I see goodness shining like the sun, is sweet goodness, its all that I've been waiting on'.
Eric wraps things up with an unlikely evocative acoustic lament, featuring retrained vocals and emotive lyrics; 'The pain flows into these empty arms, Only the lonely are waiting for love to survive, only the lonely just kissing the endless goodbye'
It's the perfect ending to an intense rocking album. Even Sardinas the human dynamo occasionally needs time to reflect.