'The Better Man'
(Claritone Music, 2014)
Eric Schwartz is an American folk singer, musical satirist and songwriter, known for his often humorous, explicit lyrics. He graduated from Tufts University with a degree in biology and worked as an actor and guitarist, before moving to Greenwich Village to begin his songwriting career. He has been playing music and comedy venues nationally for fifteen years (The Improv, The Comedy Store, The Bottom Line). He has composed for and performed in various Satiristas shows spearheaded by Paul Provenza, as well as 'The Bad Boys Of Comedy' with Bobby Slayton, Jim Norton et al. One of his videos has been downloaded over a million times. He cites Dr. Demento as an inspiration. He even got raves from Hustler Magazine, Eric's songs go from the political to the profane, sometimes both.
He has played several times at the Kerrville Folk Festival and was a finalist in the songwriting contest in 2001. He also was a winner of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist Showcase. His songs have been sung by Ronny Cox, Holly Near and Van Dyke Parks. He now lives in Los Angeles, California.
His album 'The Aristocrat' (2012) garnered radio play on nationally syndicated The Bob and Tom Show and stations as diverse as Howard Stern's, Raw Dog Radio, The Ed Schultz Show and All Things Considered. The CD's main focus is on Eric's comical and explicit songs. I do have a sense of humor, but this is not really my thing, so I leave it to the people who can appreciate it more, as it certainly has quite some quality.
Eric Schwartz is known as much as a kick-ass live entertainer, singer and multi-instrumentalist as a spot-on writer and recording artist. He comes to Europe for a promotional visit in April, but who knows - he might plan a tour soon?
About 'The Better Man':
According to CD Baby: "Schwartz keeps it clean, goes deep". On this album Eric's creative talents as a folk songwriter, with roots in Greenwich Village, are put in the well-deserved spotlight. Production was done by himself, together with Will Kennedy. The CD has a great and radio friendly sound.
Eric has a very good, flexible and versatile voice and he sings with lots of energy, showcasing all the right emotions that the songs require. In some songs he sounds a bit like Elvis Costello or phrases like Randy Newman. He plays acoustic guitar and keyboards, on most tracks some other cool musicians are featured in flawlessly played beautiful arrangements.
The album starts off with fast and funky "Don't Ask", including the Angel City Horns, a perfect example of Eric's catchy melodies and very smart lyrics, with lots and lots of words. "Professor Boulevard", with Stevie Gurr playing a plaintive harmonica, is one of my favorites. A kind and poetic approach of the wise man with his shopping cart on the streets of Hollywood: "Tonight the neon signs and pastel sunset skies / Burn a little brighter in my eyes / Still, I look around / He's nowhere to be found..." Fuzzbee Morse then takes care of the guitar freak-out. "Martini" is another light and uptempo song, more horns and Stevie Gurr plays electric guitar, while Eric goes all out falsetto on the chorus. "Is It Wrong? (To Want To Be Loved By Someone As Lovely As You)" is an old school piano ballad with country and jazz tinges, about love, of course. The downsides of that same emotion are addressed with lots of words again in "Take It Out On Me", where Eric on riff organ is accompanied by Steve Aguilar on... another background organ. We continue with "Next Time" as the second song of this love trilogy. Ed Tree plays the guitars, familiar name! "But in the end, as I will do / I turned away and turned on you / I punished you for loving me". That's the third part indeed, "I'm Sorry", a beautiful slow and sensitive break-up ballad. Ah, strings... and piano man Bob Malone, I'm a fan since a long time already.
The absolute highlight of the album is "Cool Down Baby", a very intriguing epic 7m13s long masterpiece: "At the top of a hill, at the top of the world / In a circle of sunlight sits a golden girl / In each open hand a glowing stone / There is no one with her but she's not alone". Marty Rifkin plays a wonderful lap steel and Fuzzbee Morse is back for more guitar parts. Yes, it sounds a bit like Calexico's desert rock songs.
"Welcome Back To The USA" is just as impressive, when Eric Schwartz goes into character, playing the roles of several idealistic soldiers. Joining the army is often the only way out for poor kids, to get an education, to get out of the bad neighborhood, to see something of the world, and so on. The recruiters know all too well how to further convince them and of course they don't tell about roadside bombs... "Just in time to watch New Orleans wash away" points to an infamous part of recent history, when the National Guardsmen of Mississippi and Louisiana were tied up overseas, unable to help their brothers and sisters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Thank you, Eric, for mentioning this! Very touching ballad, Marty Rifkin plays a gorgeous pedal steel here. The great blues rock of "Another Mother Flood" follows in the well-thought out sequence of songs and Eric dazzles with his organ solo. The last track has been recorded in one take, as is. The simple title song: Eric singing and Bob Malone playing the piano.
Eric Schwartz is such a great songwriter, who exactly knows how to impress music lovers with his songs, that he really doesn't need those shocking explicit lyrics at all. As there are obviously fans, who love that side of him - I hope he continues to keep things separately in the future and goes on to make more of these very enjoyable folk songwriting albums like 'The Better Man".
Written by Johanna J. Bodde - February 11th, 2015.