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Eric Hofbauer: American Vanity

Dan McClenaghan By

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It's hard to decide—based on American Vanity —if Eric Hofbauer is a brilliant young artist or a wild-eyed nut-case. He plays solo acoustic guitar, ranting about American culture, American hubris, and American vanity through his guitar strings; though you wouldn't know this without liner notes. You might just take the set for some sharply-focused and fairly intense free sounds on his originals, along with some adventurous covers of American jazz classics by Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus.

His improvisations include "$..." (parts 1 & 2), "Coke" and "New Coke (parts 1 & 2)"—prickly tunes that jab and poke at your ears—and "Display Window Strut." The covers include the Yardbirds' "Driftin on a Reed" and Mingus' "Better Git It In Your Soul," a tune I didn't think could be done justice on solo guitar, but Hofbauer proves me wrong—this is a muscular and audacious display of technical virtuosity. He also covers Waylon Jennings' "Dukes of Hazzard," as well as Eric Satie's "Gnossienne #1," and Eric Dolphy's "Mandrake," establishing an "Eric" theme within the "gripe-about-American-culture" theme, I suppose. And why not; it's Hofbauer's show.

I used the word "rant" in describing this sound, and that's the feeling the disc leaves me with. It's sort of like answering the doorbell at midnight and letting a wayward nephew, guitar in tow, into your house. He stalks over to the sofa and sits down and goes into his take on the world, in musical fashion, and you don't know quite what to make of it all, riveting as it might be.

Brilliant young artist or wild-eyed nut-case? Damned if I know; probably some combination of the two. But he's got my attention.


Track Listing: The Fad; Coke (for Our Addicts); Gnossienne #1; Mandrake; American Eulogy; Better Get Hit In Your Soul; Ba-Dee Image; Greensleeves In Vermont; Ode To Little Drummer Joy; $...(Part 1); Old Man River (For Our Lost Ones); New Coke (Part 1); Driftin' On A Reed (For Our Dreamers); American Innocence; $...(Part 2); Dukes Of Hazzard; Take On Me; Femme Fatale; New Coke (Part 2); Display Window Strut

Personnel: Eric Hofbauer (guitar)

Title: American Vanity | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Creative Nation Music

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Bail Out Blues

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