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Eric Apoe — Spectator
(Bandcamp Soundtrack Blvd no#, 2024, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2024-04-01

Spectator Cover art

Eric Apoe’s latest release continues in the mode of his recent albums, being assembled from songs recorded with different personnel in different cities but remaining coherent due to Apoe’s own consistent voice and style. Folksy singer-songwriter elements coexist with rock, blues, country (really more Western), and klezmer touches, all united by Apoe’s distinctive voice, and the quality of his songwriting shines regardless of the stylistic flavor. Many of his long-time cohorts are on board — though the album is not billed as “Eric Apoe and They” as so many were — along with a host of relative newcomers. Listing the contributors would take up more space than a single review, but all the musicians serve the vision superbly. “Black List” is one of the most rocking tunes Apoe has ever recorded, and “On the Backs of Wild Horses” sounds like it could have come from a 60s Western movie, with its trumpets and twanging guitar. “Dream Asylum” has the most elaborate orchestration courtesy of Mark Nichols, with a string ensemble, musical saw, multiple guitars, and renowned drummer Matt Cameron. “Goner Blues” has some tasty slide work; on “Harbor of the Dawn,” fiddle and whistle impart an Irish sound; and “Let’s Go Climb the Fallen Tree,” with a minimal arrangement for acoustic guitar, clarinet, and violin, is a beautiful and moody tale of loss. “Telepathic Dreamers” is an outlier with music not written by Apoe himself — it’s got a funky groove with fretless bass, but the vocal melodies lack the normal fluid cadence, making for an awkward result. That’s one small diversion in an album that on the whole is quite engaging and entertaining. Spectator is a fine collection of songs from one of America’s overlooked songwriting talents.

Filed under: New releases, 2024 releases

Related artist(s): James DeJoie, Dennis Rea, Eric Apoe, Aiko Shimada

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