Eric Lindell @ Sullivan Hall, February 11
If you were around Manhattan in the late ’80s and early ’90s seeing music night in and night out, you lived through a special time. Bars and clubs all over town were pumping out soulful sounds, bluesy stomps and rockin’ romps. Delta 88 over behind FIT, Manny’s Car Wash on the Upper East, Dan Lynch’s on the corner of 14th & 2nd, the Mondos in the West Village and of course Tramps on 21st or the Lonestar on 5th Avenue. On any given night, at any of these venues, one could walk through the door to hear Dr. John or Joey Miserable & the Worms, The Meters or Joan Osborne, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Blues Traveler, Chris Whitley or the Spin Doctors. And in almost every band there was a guitar slinger burning up the stage.
[All photos by Marc Millman]
If you missed those seedier days in the City, but you’ve been down to N’awlins, then you can appreciate this type of atmosphere. And Eric Lindell from NOLA by way of San Mateo, CA is the right man at the right time to help invoke that atmosphere. Lindell has been making albums since 1996. But he really hit his stride after signing to Alligator Records in 2006, where he recorded three albums. The first album, Change In The Weather (2006) was a compilation of his early albums and EPs. He followed that with Low On Cash, Rich In Love (2008) and Gulf Coast Highway (2009). He played a sampling from those albums as well as last year’s Between Motion and Rest and Cazadero (set to be released on March 22nd).
Lindell’s band has a great mix of a young rhythm section and some older “veterans.” Watching Will McMains (drums) & Myles Weeks (stand-up bass) play off of each other is a lot of fun. McMains looks like he could just be graduating from high school. And yet he plays with a subtle swinging touch that most of today’s rock drummers seem to lack as they pound on their kits. And Weeks really works that upright bass, forcing even Lindell to watch him and just smile as they jam. These two were augmented by another band regular, Derek Huston (ex-Iguanas) on saxophone along with Chris Fitzgerald (saxophone) and Arne Wendt (keys).
The beauty of Eric is that he knows when to play a song and when to jam. He was able to rock out on Josephine in under three minutes. Likewise, he was able to step out and expand on his cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s Lady Day and John Coltrane where Weeks’ bass practically caught on fire. Lindell’s playing has a slinky feel to it. Whether he’s working his band through the Honky Tonk feeling Sentimental Lover from the new album, the soulful If Love Can’t Find A Way or the classic New Orleans style Rock of I Can Get Off On You, his mix of rhythm & lead playing propels the music.
But this is a N’awlins man. And this is one of NYC’s premier venues for music from the Crescent City and the still thriving jamband scene. So what would a night like this be without a special guest to sit in? And who could be better than the man who is fast becoming the NYC’s MVP on the six string? Near the end of the first set, Lindell launched into a cover of the Willie Dixon classic You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover made famous by Bo Diddley. About halfway through the song, Eric Krasno crept out of the shadows at the back of the stage.
Lindell handed his Gibson SG guitar over to Krasno who proceeded to tear it up. Krasno stayed up for one more after that with Lindell singing and clapping with a shit-eating grin on his face. And that’s the thing that really sums this artist up. He can talk about his family or his short-lived but fondly remembered time living in Manhattan. He can sing his heart out and play stinging lead lines or hand over his axe to a local hero and become a spectator at his own show. But no matter what he does, Eric Lindell has proven himself a true survivor in the world of music. And when this man smiles, which he does often throughout his sets, you can feel the love he has for the music and his audience.
To quote a song from his last album Between Motion and Rest, “Leaving Bodega is hard to do.” That may be true about the tiny town in Sonoma County possibly most famous for the church in Hitchcock’s The Birds. But leaving an Eric Lindell show satisfied. That’s easy. However, leaving early to get home to Massapequa? That’s a tough one!