Friday, 3 February 2012

Review: Craig Finn

Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes (Full Time Hobby)
On first hearing, it’s understandable why Craig Finn’s debut solo record was never going to be a Hold Steady album. The small screen Americana that the band play, and excel at – something that coalesces the rock ‘n’ roll abandon of prime-time Replacements with the short stories of Richard Ford – simply doesn’t apply on “Clear Heart Full Eyes”. Instead Finn brings calmness and a quiet quirkiness to his songs, and lets his words run without confinement.

In interviews he’s spoken about songwriters who have stirred his imagination, and a desire to strip back the bluster - though The Hold Steady peddle some of the finest bluster around. Here he sounds like a writer totally familiar with the prime movers of the Texas songwriting tradition; Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, Blaze Foley, etc., together with various new Dylans, including John Prine and Steve Goodman. There’s never been any doubting his songwriting prowess, right from the early days of “Almost Killed Me”, and here he gets the chance to put his words front and centre. My favourites are many, and I must draw attention to the chugging “No Future” – Freddie Mercury and Johnny Rotten so rarely get to be in the same song together, even Neil Young only managed to squeeze one of them in – and “New Friend Jesus”, where Finn get’s to talk about his new pal, all to a rather glorious country groove.
Rob F.

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