Terry Glasenapp, host of ‘Wholly Bozos’ for 38 years, reviews Eric Dahl's 2022 release Three Pawn Shops. KDNK Community Radio , Carbondale, Colorado.
Eric Dahl is a singer-songwriter with a musical palette from acoustic folk Americana to “country eastern” to anthemic ballads and more. From his start in the Green River Valley south of Seattle to Walla Walla, in Eastern Washington, to Oxford in England, with stops in Austin,Texas, in Athens, Georgia, and other points in between, he has absorbed many inspirations and influences. His songs are distilled with depth and precision, lyrical grace and shades of the Renaissance writers he studied in Europe.
Eric’s keen observation skills infuse his songs with details: “Wisteria growing all twisted against the wall” in Blackbird about the Cajun south from an LA perspective or in an eastern Washington ballad Break Through and Shine with rural religious imagery from the wheat fields: “I saw her carrying a round loaf of bread in a biblical episode. Her shoes were anointed with oil, black like the unpaved road.”
My favorites on Eric’s new CD, Three Pawn Shops, are Kingdom Come, a rousing ballad with an anthemic chorus, and Jimmy Day, a tribute to the man who pioneered pedal steel guitar playing in recordings with Hank Williams, Patsy Kline, Elvis, Willie Nelson (and many others who called on Jimmy to play live with them and on their records). How about these fine words from that song; “A spice wind from the desert in the steel ringing true -- one murmur, sweet goddess would do, one murmur Blue Darlin’ from Jimmy Day and you.”
The CD has other powerful songs, including “Diamonds on the Texas Dew” with these lyrics: “You know he believed being linked together makes us sane, And he was the kind who loved to build that chain, He always had some shining idea breaking through, Gentle and real as diamonds on the Texas dew.”
And to close out, I share these wise lines: “This is not about eternity, It’s a moment in your mind . . . “ from Eric’s song Texas Nightingale. The grace of Eric’s stories and music bring me to a longing for that one eternal moment. Perhaps a visit to one of the Pawn Shops will provide something like that.
KRBX 93.5 FM (Boise, Idaho)
"Range Life" by Christopher Hess
“Classic. I like the gravelly vocals, rougher than the production. They give it balance. And nice steel — good stuff.”
KAOS 89.3 FM (Olympia, Washington) 2/19/12
"Retroactive" by J J Syrja
I was struck by Dahl’s varied styles, from Rock to Americana, and an impressive vocal approach, as his singing vaguely recalls Chris Rea’s. Dahl was based in Seattle for years and then recorded these tracks during a three-year period in Austin before he moved to Georgia.
3rd Coast Music (Round Rock, TX) February 2012
"3CM Reviews" by John Conquest
With singer-songwriter Eric Dahl, I had the strong musical aesthetic of Whatever The Jungle (1999) as a predictor and . . . he’s once again offering an album on which the songs and the music complement each other, neither getting in the way of the other. Dahl, originally from the Pacific Northwest, spent three years in Austin in the late 90s and returns to those Texas days with 12 songs recorded in Austin as they took shape in performance and worked over by veteran producer/engineer/ guitarist/steel guitarist John Keane of Athens, GA. Dahl gives copious credit to legendary drummer Ernie Durawa, who I assume was responsible not just for the varied rhythmic styles but also for roping in the likes of Monte Mann lead guitar, Larry Eisenberg upright and electric bass, Floyd Domino piano, Howard Kalish fiddle and Scott Walls pedal steel. I’m not sure how studying mediaeval literature (at Oxford University no less) factors in, but Dahl, now a Professor at the University Of Georgia, is also an award- winning poet, and it shows.
Alt.Country.nl (The Netherlands) February 2012
The singer-songwriter, who lives in Athens, Georgia, is first and foremost a storyteller. That becomes very clear on Sometimes The Trains Don't Roll, a song that Sam Baker wouldn't be ashamed of. The same goes for If You Say No and the title track. Book Of Love could have been Eddie Hinton's territory, while One Step Up leans toward Larry John McNally. That song, described as a songwriter soul, has nice bluesy guitar playing. On Jarrel (soul), John Keane excels on slide guitar. With drummer Ernie Durawa, pianist Floyd Domino and more people from Austin, his third CD, completed in his hometown of Athens, has a high Texan quality. Not so strange, because Dahl lived in Austin for a while where he recorded his previous record. His debut came about in Seattle, where he grew up. Live By Your Word gets four stars, because an unknown artist like Eric Dahl could use that attention.
3rd Coast Music (Round Rock, TX) December 1998
"3CM Reviews" by John Conquest
Been a while since I last formulated my theory that songwriting has, for better and worse, displaced poetry as a medium of expression, but a corollary to it is that good songwriters are not necessarily good musicians (by the same token, good musicians are rarely good songwriters, but that’s another story). When it comes to making albums, one common pitfall, which even people like Butch Hancock and Terry Allen have fallen into, is for singer-songwriters to defer to musicians, which can all too easily create competing agendas, with the words often losing out to the music. With Eric Dahl, who came to Austin from the Pacific Northwest, and his lead guitarist John Hawk, who coproduced this album and cowrote a couple of the songs, you get a copybook lesson in emphatic striking of the balance. Dahl’s 14 songs range from pretty damn good to absolutely terrific, but the music doesn’t just do what backing is supposed to do, frame and complement those songs. It goes a step further. You could block out the words and it would still sound good, it’s musical aesthetic is so strong. This is perhaps most strikingly demonstrated by Throw Me In, on which Dahl’s words and his and Terry (female variety) Martin’s intertwined vocal harmonies fuel each other in a stunning symbiosis. This is delivery with a capital D. Martin, who plays congas, and Hawk are the backbone of the album, recorded in Seattle, Valencia, and Austin, the latter tracks featuring Ernie Durawa drums, Joel Guzman accordion, and Mark Kazanoff sax.
The Rocket (Seattle) June 12-June 26, 1996 "Knack for Negligence" Issue #231 by Chris Nickson
I’ve never heard of him either, but Eric Dahl has turned in one of the best CDs by a local singer/songwriter that I’ve heard in a long time. The music ranges from acoustic neo-rockabilly to the thoughtful and introspective. He also has a killer way with a line. “Smells like a house to make a poor fly rich,” or “I went to see the Sonics ‘cause I had a lotta money,” not at all shabby. Wish I’d written them. Helped by John Hawk on guitar, a sort of Mark Knopfler minus the noodly bits, this is a class act all the way.
Seattle Post Intelligencer March 29, 1996
"The Keen Eye of a Poet-Psychologist" by Gene Stout
Singer-songwriter Eric Dahl, a native of Colville, explores the rural and urban sides of Northwest life with the keen eye of a poet-psychologist. On this CD, his debut, Dahl’s striking voice, slightly raspy and heavy with melancholy, maneuvers through 12 story-songs of troubled lives.
“Up on the Block” is an insightful, deeply nostalgic song filled with childhood recollections of the wheat lands of the Palouse. There is also a very personal reflection on the late Kurt Cobain. In an untitled song, Dahl sings of “a new orphan ghost from the rainswept coast.”
Dahl is accompanied by electric guitarist John Hawk, whose spare, understated style works well on Dahl’s delicate tunes.
The Herald (Everett, WA) March 15, 1996
"A New Voice to Listen for on the NW Scene" by Sharon Wootton>
With his debut “Knack for Negilgence,” singer/songwriter Eric Dahl formally tosses his hat into the talented Northwest acoustic music scene. After listening to the CD, here’s the prediction of the week: Dahl will live long and prosper. That is, if fates are kind and he’s in the right place at the right time. But whatever Dahl’s professional fate, his intelligent 12-song effort is a keeper. If it sounds vaguely familiar, there a good reason. Dahl relies heavily on Northwest images from the wheat fields to Kurt Cobain and the Sonics.
But his songs aren’t parochial in a limiting sense. There are the broader themes of relationships, the complexities of life, and childhood. In fact, one of the best lines on the introspection scale is: “Strange how childhood’s never over when it’s done, shades each promise like background noise, up on the block.”
Austin American Statesman Thursday January 16, 1997
"Fresh Blood: Eric Dahl" by Chris Riemenshneider
Dahl has been writing songs and poetry since his youth (he won a prestigious poetry award while attending Oxford University), but it wasn’t until two years ago he began earning a following in Seattle for his music. The 1995 independent CD “Knack for Negligence” received ample praise in the area press, and convinced him to give Austin a try, while keeping his ties to Seattle.
“In a sense, I’m living in two cities,” Dahl said. “I mean, everything I own is here, but I go there to perform. It’s like I’ve been playing music there and just watching and listening to music here, taking it all in.”
That’s what Dahl does as a songwriter – he takes in his surroundings and encompasses them in a melody that captures the atmosphere and the color. As proof, Seattle can be heard throughout “Knack for Negligence,” from the hustle-and-bustle weariness of “Ordinary Computer” to the bitterness in “Untitled for Kurt Cobain,” in which he sings, “Not an emblem, not a symbol/He’s just one of our own . . . what if this one had grown.”
That song; which he only sang once (when he recorded it), came from Seattle. Austin, Dahl said, has had a similarly dramatic effect on his songwriting. He has been working on a CD for a possible March release, and he said his new songs are about everything from this summer’s drought to a Hill Country lightning storm he saw. He may have an icy winter freeze to add to that list too.
North Snohomish Weekly (Snohomish, WA) April 25, 1996
“Dahl a Combination of Folk, Blues, Rock, Visuals” by Ann Diener
Combine folk, blues, rock and visuals of the Northwest and you get singer songwriter Eric Dahl. He calls himself “just a writer” but this new CD release, “Knack for Negligence,” reveals more than that.
With each song Dahl, who was born in Colville and raised in the Seattle area, sends visuals of life in the Northwest flashing through your mind like an old super 8 film.
“The songs that I’ve written involve many different people talking. In that sense, it is theatrical,” said Dahl.
But his songs force you to look inwards and see emotions that maybe you haven’t allowed yourself to feel for quite some time.
The title track “Knack for Negligence” poses striking images of a relationship tumbling apart, “If I could be your Jericho and the walls came tumbling down would you put my dreams to the sword and deny the killing ground?”
Soon afterwards you feel the emotional relief of “Buzzin,” a song written through the eyes of a fly.
This compilation may sound different, even strange, but it’s life, feelings, blues, folk and rock.
Perhaps the most striking song on the CD is “Ordinary Computer.” It combines the vocals of Eric Dahl and Terry Vaughn, a young woman from Louisiana who adds depth to Dahl’s music. Although she only plays a small part in this song, she could be an ingredient to add spice to his music.
Aside from Vaughn’s joining the group, Dahl credits guitar player John Hawk for the versatility and success.
“We have an extremely good and original guitar player who can play rock, blues and folk, and this enables us to play many different venues,” said Dahl.
Last year, the two played at the Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon with Patrick Moraz, a keyboard player who played with Yes and the Moddy Blues. More recently, Dahl, Hawk ad Vaughn played Jimmy Z’s in early March.
“I think of myself as a writer, and when I’m singing my song up there with someone like Patrick Moraz and a guitar player like John, I’m thinking, what am I doing here?” said Dahl.
He is a writer and an artist that paints emotional pictures of the Northwest with his music.
And Dahl’s got a story to tell.
Eric Dahl will play at the folk life festival at the Seattle Center on May 27, then on June 8 he plays at Jimmy Z’s in Everett. You can hear Dahl’s songs on independent Seattle stations KCBS and KSER. “Knack for Negligence” is available at Budget Records and Tapes in Marysville.
Platter Chatter No. 40 (Seattle) March 1996
Eric Dahl delivers a set of songs on Knack for Negligence that should establish him as an original presence among Northwest urban and rural songwriters. His musical style embraces rock, blues, country and folk. John Hawk provides excellent guitar work throughout the disc.
Eastside Week (Bellevue, WA) February 5, 1997
Singer/songwriter Eric Dahl returns to his native Northwest from Austin for a performance with Woodinville’s “Java Jive” series. Dahl has gained fans in both of his stomping grounds with his sharp, colorful lyrics (he began as a poet while studying a Oxford University), and moody, atmospheric music , which mixes blues, rock, country and folk. This Saturday he will play with his regular cohorts, guitarist John Hawk and singer Terry Martin. The performance will benefit a local Habitat for Humanity project.
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