Eric Madis: Traveling Light (2000)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Those that are familiar with his recorded work, or those who have been lucky enough to hear him perform live in and around his home base Seattle, know that guitarist/singer/composer Eric Madis is an eclectic musician that draws from many styles and influences. The result is a style that is wholly his own, as evidenced on his debut CD, entitled Traveling Light. For this CD, Madis is in a blues bag, as he explores the blues repertoire of the last century, as well as contributing his own fine compositions to the mix. There is plenty of variation within the genre though, as Madis uses different configurations and instrumentation throughout, much as an artist uses various colors from his palette, blending them to achieve a unified whole.
Madis has about everything you could ask for in a guitarist: good tone, good time, a clean sound, and a relaxed, unhurried feel. As a singer he belt out a blues with the best of them, but Madis has a much more refined, skilled voice than the usual gravelly, guttural blues shouter; a voice that would be equally at home singing jazz standards. As a composer, there is a honesty, romanticism, and altruism in his music; he composes pretty, and sometimes bittersweet music that appeals to the listener on a very emotional level. Although this disc comprises a mix of minor/major blues combinations, two Madis originals are also presented here that are quite devoid of the blues form. There is the peaceful, yet forceful "Aspire to Inspire", a quiet unaccompanied guitar solo with overdubbed bass that has an almost saintly quality to it, and the lovely "La ‘Ela ‘E"; a slack-key acoustic guitar solo that serves as an proud anthem to Madis' wife Eileen. The slightly exotic minor blues "Far Wes", is a nod to one of Madis' inspirations; Wes Montgomery. Madis plays the melody in octaves, which is followed by a sweeping single-string solo. On "Shotgun Blues" Madis shows off his impressive slide guitar skills over this major blues with a lively blues shuffle feel, while on the slower, unaccompanied "Brownskin Woman Blues", he convincingly takes us back to the Mississippi Delta for some down-home pickin' and blues hollerin'.
Traveling Light represents chapter one in the life and music of Eric Madis. It is the story of human expression written by a man who has a lot to say about life itself, and is told with uncommon passion and desire. I can only say that I look forward to putting on my reading glasses, and perusing future successive chapters of the good book of Madis.
Track Listing: North Wes; Cold Hearted Woman; Way Down Upon My Knees; Brownskin Woman Blues; Shotgun Blues; Aspire to Inspire; Sent For You Yesterday; I Left My Baby; Milk Cow Blues; Swimming in the Duwamish; Is You Is or Is You Aint My Baby; I'm Leaving Town; La'Ela'E
Personnel: Eric Madis(electric, acoustic guitars, bass, vocals); Rick Leppanen(bass); Jim Charlier(bass); Edward Contreras (drums); Brad Stoll(drums); Jim,Jay & Eric(hand claps, tambourine)
Record Label: Luna Records