Eric Gales: The Bookends Review

Eric Gales is the real deal. The blues rock singer/guitarist has been around since the 1990s, releasing his first album at just 16 and is still making interesting records some 28 years (and 16 studio albums) later. The Bookends is what you expect from Gales: strong songs, impressive guitar, and solid vocals.

There’s a theory that for music, especially blues music, to work, it needs to come from a place of sadness and desperation. While I think songwriting is much more complex than transcribing life experience, there is something to be said for songwriters who have experienced the ups and downs of humanity. And Gales has experienced those ups and downs. He struggled with drugs and wound up serving jail time for violating his parole. He’s now over two years sober and very open about his challenges.

Gales addresses his struggles explicitly, with his song choices, but also in his approach to his music. For instance, Gales covers “With a Little Help from My Friends,” sticking to the iconic Joe Cocker version of The Beatles tune, and performing it with singer Beth Hart. Gales said he gravitated toward that song for its message of needing the strength of others to battle your demons, whatever they are. Gales’ guitar rumbles with distortion, especially on the crushing choruses, but he never veers into metal. And that’s the strength of Gales. He knows his craft. He knows what a metal tone sounds like and he knows when to use it. But more importantly, especially for this track, he knows when not to use it.

Gales has other interesting collaborators on the album. Singer/songwriter B. Slade shows off his gospel singing chops on “Something’s Gotta Give,” a sweeping tune that starts with an acoustic guitar and gradually expands, with huge background vocals, and of course, a perfectly funky Gales guitar solo. Guitarist/songwriter Doyle Bramhall II joins Gales for “Southpaw Serenade,” a slow blues featuring lots of Jimi Hendrix tone.

Gales is often associated with Hendrix as he plays lefty, using a right-handed guitar flipped upside down, like Hendrix (interestingly, Gales is a righty, despite his singing with Bramhall to the contrary). Gales also wore a Hendrix-style cowboy hat on the cover of his first album, The Eric Gales Band, which cemented the Hendrix comparison for the teenage version of this writer. Gales is good with Hendrix-inspired funk and rock, but he’s also got a nice metal sensibility, too. He combines the two on “Whatcha Gon’ Do,” which is a funky guitar riff over a rolling bass and organ groove. The track eventually explodes into a pop chorus that’s almost grunge. And of course, the track features a typically epic Gales solo.

There are no real surprises on The Bookends. Gales has been doing this a long time and has explored a lot of musical styles. What’s impressive about this album is how, as a working artist, Gales can continue to create music that’s interesting. Just about every song on this album is solid. The performances are well-done and interesting. And Gales still finds ways to insert himself into his music, something that’s hardly a given with any songwriter. The Bookends is a talented artist showing the hard work it takes to make music for almost 30 years, through the ups and downs.

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Something’s Gotta Give
– Whatcha Gon’ Do
– Southpaw Serenade
– How Do I Get You
– With a Little Help from My Friends

The Big Hit

– With a Little Help from My Friends

Review by Steven Ovadia

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

Steven Ovadia

Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

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