Eric Gales – Middle Of The Road
11 songs – 50 minutes
Veteran Memphis-based guitarist Eric Gales kicks off his latest CD with a gospel-infused greeting and call to order as he delivers a strong dose of the modern electric blues he’s known for.
Born into a musical family, Gales picked up the six-string for the first time at age four, playing left-handed and upside down with normal right-handed tuning. As odd at that might sound, there’s a long history of blues artists who’ve used that technique, including Elizabeth Cotten, Otis Rush, Albert King, Coco Montoya, Bobby Womack, Lefty Dizz, Eddy Clearwater and his late older brother, Little Jimmy King, who along with brother Eugene taught him to play in the style of B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Albert and others.
He signed his first recording contract with Elecktra at age 16 along with Eugene, and their eponymous first release in 1991, The Eugene Gales Band, was an instant success, earning Eric recognition as Best New Talent in Guitar World Magazine’s annual reader poll. His in-your-face delivery crosses the boundaries into the world of rock, where two of his later tunes, “Sign Of The Storm” and “Paralyzed,” climbed high on the charts.
Recorded in North Hollywood, Calif., Cleveland, Miss., and Memphis, this is the 17th release in Gales’ catalog. In addition to handling guitar and vocal duties, he also provides all of the bass charts, aided by Aaron Haggerty on drums and Dylan Wiggins on B-3 organ. His wife, LaDonna, adds backing vocals, and Maxwell “Wizard” Drummy plays mellotron on one cut. Brother Eugene makes a guest appearance on one tune, as do Gary Clark Jr. and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram on others.
Middle Of The Road serves as a notice to the world that Gales has finally found his center in his early 40s after a life of ups and downs. With the exception of one cover, all of the material here is original and filled with autobiographical references. And the richly annotated accompanying booklet features images of Eric that reflect the mood expressed in the lyrics they illustrate.
“Good Time” serves as the opener. It’s an uptempo, stop-time thriller that features LaDonna in the call-and-response lyrics. “Change In Me (The Rebirth)” simply states Eric’s case: “Hey everybody/I’m finally doin’ like I should y’all/I got tired of doin’ bad/Now I’m doin’ good.” It’s delivered atop a reggae beat. The message continues in the funky “Carry Yourself,” which assures his lady that his “mind is set on a truth stone/I just don’t wanna live my life alone.”
The familar “Boogie Man,” written by Leon Russell and Charles Blackwell, features Clark before “Been So Long” describes his troubled path and being his own worst enemy, while “Help Yourself,” featuring blues man-child Ingram, addresses the need to assume responsibility for your own well-being. “I’ve Been Deceived” recognizes with great angst that others have led him down the wrong path.
“Repetition,” featuring and co-written by Eugene, deals with recurring promises to change, while the sweet ballad “Help Me Let Go” seeks outside help in order to affect change. Gales remains wary that he could fall back into his old lifestyle, as he expresses in “I Don’t Know” before the Hill Country-flavored instrumental “Swamp” brings the action to a close.
Middle Of The Road is a solid offering. The musicianship is exceptional throughout, which will please those of you who love modern electric blues and blues-rock, while anyone who’s fought and conquered his own demons will take the lyrics to heart. It delivers on both levels. Highly recommended.