Album review: ERIC McFADDEN – Starving At The Feast

ERIC McFADDEN – Starving At The Feast

Bad Reputation [Release date: 01.06.2021]

Known far better on the US western seaboard than in the UK, singer, songwriter and guitarist Eric McFadden is enjoying a diverse career. Alongside output with Bay Area bands such as Liar, Alien Lovestock, Angry Babies and Holy Smokes, McFadden has recorded a clutch of solo albums and boasts a cv with performances alongside Bo Diddely, Living Colour, George Clinton, Primus and Joe Strummer, to name but a few.

I wasn’t very familiar with his back catalogue until this CD arrived for review. Picking through a few earlier highlights, this acoustic ‘Starving at the Feast’ album is stripped back and bare compared to, say, 2018’s electric and visceral ‘Pain By Numbers’ or the retro rock of the Eric McFadden Trio.

This release has much more in common with a previous solo acoustic offering, ‘Devil Moon’. The material is often low key, with just McFadden’s picked guitar and whispered vocals weaving a dark narration. Album opener ‘Headed for the Light’ and ‘Long Way Down’ are typical; and later the country-speckled/Carole King-like ‘I’ll Be Anything for You’ pulses through a similar vein.

McFadden keeps his natural rasp and bourbon-soaked baritone under control to keep things simple. Here and there a hint of percussion or a solitary violin accompanies the main guitar and mandolin themes, such as ‘In the Water’. Lyrically, the album is regularly drawn to darkness, betrayal and pain. The haunting, tortured ‘Speak To Me Now’ (again supported by violin) and the title track are the most obvious examples.

Occasionally, the mood lifts. The most immediate track is the gorgeous ‘Steady On The Mark’ where McFadden finds a comfortable groove for this gentle love song with not only a quiet snare to count the rhythm, supported by some tasteful backing vocals.

‘Starving…’ hints at Hank Williams and maybe Tom Waits references, but the strongest themes are Latin influences. ‘The Way I Loved You’ and ‘I Came Home to the Devil’ both slip into an easy Latino swagger, summoning vistas of Mexicana desert and scrub. ‘Easy Tiger’ builds around a subtle flamenco undertow (if that’s not a contradiction in terms!) and the almost up-beat  ‘She Extra’ gives the collection a Salsa swell.

The Ry Cooder ‘Paris, Texas’ feel is only emphasised by a mandolin-driven cover of Ennio Moriccone’s cinematic ‘Ecstasy of Gold’. But the original is famously the intro music to Metallica gigs, and this McFadden album, although ugly-beautiful in its tender rawness,  leaves me wanting him to plug in and rasp out. ***½

Review by Dave Atkinson


David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

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