I will confess to you on the front end that it has been a long time since I have received a CD for review that I have personally enjoyed as much as the latest release from the San Francisco based guitarist Eric McFadden. A veteran performer of diverse influence and style, McFadden’s latest release “Pain By Numbers” is produced by one of my favorite artists Tab Benoit on Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records label. This recording is an incredible showcase of McFadden’s enormous talent, diversity, and passion. The songs are originals of McFadden and are among some of the more compelling tunes lyrically that I have heard in a good while. The overall feeling of “Pain By Numbers” is decidedly positive and redemptive in a way and I cannot tell you how much this has added to this wonderful recording. Life is tough, but the Giver of life even more so. Thank you Mr. McFadden for reminding people who may be struggling in life that there is hope greater than our despair.
You will look long and far before you find a guitarist who is so skilled in so many different styles of guitar. I am now going to use the rarely invoked “B” word about this recording: there are many places in “Pain By Numbers” that are absolutely brilliant. At times, I will hear a little “lick”, and through it McFadden says to me “I played that just to show you that I could”. And, if all of this were not enough, McFadden adds to this recording an incredible rhythm section of Doug Wimbish, one of my favorite bass guitarists, and the spectacular drumming of Terrence Higgins. These guys are collectively so good that there were times that I had to turn off a song mid stream and just try to absorb what my ears had been handed. Wimbish and Higgins deliver an absolute rhythm clinic on this set. Oh, and Mr. Benoit shows up on keyboards also for some extra flavor.
And the songs: different styles but all raw yet beautifully refined and passionately delivered from the hands of Eric McFadden and Company. The CD opens with a Curtis Stigers and the Forest Rangers like tune “While You Were Gone”. McFadden takes us to church along with Benoit’s keyboards next on “Love Come Rescue Me”. Two rockers follow with “Long Gone” and “The Girl Has Changed”, giving way to the heaviest track on the set “Skeleton Key”, which disguises itself a bit by using a some lovely bass harmonics for an intro followed by an exploding and angry guitar.
Now I am 5 tracks into the CD and I think to some degree I “get it” with McFadden and what he is doing. Then comes a stripped down, raw, and powerful acoustic offering “I Never Listened Too Good”. After hearing this track, I emailed McFadden’s representative who had sent me the CD and told him “I would travel a long way to see this guy live”. “I Never Listened Too Good” has several of those “I played that just to show you I could” licks as mentioned above. There are more of these coming soon in “Fool Your Heart”
By now “Pain By Numbers” has me almost gasping for air. I get it, I get it!!! But then after all this comes my favorite tracks on the set, sitting at #10,11, and 12 respectively. I cannot recall ever hearing a CD that the final 3 tracks were this strong. #10 is my personal favorite on the set, a tune bearing a never duplicated title “The Jesus Gonna See You Naked”. This is another of the tracks I had to pause during playback in order to absorb fully what my ears were hearing. If you ever want to know what type of music I really enjoy, give this one a spin. It is raw, powerful, passionate with lyrics that make me think. This song also reminds me why I have been a power trio junky since the 60s. And behind this one at #11 is the Cream flavored “Don’t You Wanna Live”. The CD, so full of power and fury ends on a very mellow note with an almost flamenco/jazz tune “Cactus Juice”, which had me saying outloud driving down the highway “how can a guy who plays with so much power play with so much grace and beauty as well?” I love music the style of “Cactus Juice” and believe this also was my first ever encounter with flamenco bass as well.
“Pain By Numbers” is available at Whiskey Bayou Records and many other outlets as well. Please be sure to visit Eric McFadden online at www.ericmcfadden.com. “Pain By Numbers” is truly a work of art and it receives my highest recommendation to you.
Eric McFadden-Guitars, vocals
Doug Wimbish-Bass guitar
While You Was Gone
Love Come Rescue Me
The Girl Has Changed
I Never Listened Too Good
So Hard To Leave
If I die today
Fool Your Heart
The Jesus Gonna See You Naked
Don’t You Wanna Live
Copyright 2018 Whiskey Bayou Records
Review Copyright 2019 www.Bluesrock.reviews