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Music Review: Eric Hanke – Factory Man

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Life is big and tall in Texas. Eric Hanke currently fits the bill on one of those attributes, and is trying to make the other true as well. Hanke stands above the crowd as far as musicians are concerned as he may well be the tallest artist performing today. He might go unnoticed on an NBA basketball team but on stage he is a formidable figure. He has started his own label, Ten Foot Texan Records.

He is still young and finding himself as an artist, while developing into a singer/songwriter of note. There is hope that his career will move in a big direction. Born in Michigan, he began performing in Germany, and now calls Austin, Texas his home. His 2006 debut album, Autumn Blues, was well received for its country and folk tunes.

Hanke has now returned with his second full-length release, Factory Man. The album was produced by his friend and bandmate Merel Bregante, former drummer with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Loggins & Messina. Some other contributors include singer Sarah Pierce, who is Bregante’s wife, guitarist Kenny Grimes, mandolin player Doug Hudson, keyboardist Riley Osborn, and steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar. Hanke handles lead vocals and accompanies himself on the acoustic guitar.

Hanke is one of those artists who moves across several styles and merges them together upon occasion. While he is mainly a country/folk artist, he ventures in a folk-rock direction every once in awhile. His songs are personal and introspective, and could be considered Americana.

He is a precise lyricist, one who is able to paint pictures with words. The title song moves in a country direction with some nice mandolin work in support. It is a biting song about his grandfather who labored all of his life in a factory until the work was outsourced to foreign countries. And so it is a worker’s song about unemployment and economic hardship.

“Burn It Down,” one of two collaborative songwriting efforts with Hanke sharing credit here with Sarah Pierce, is an unforgiving and angry song about a small Texas town. ”Hope Your Dreams Come True,” co-written with George Ensle, is probably the album’s best track as it deals with the hope a father passes down to his son. Hanke even includes a picture of his father as a little leaguer next to the enclosed lyrics.

He reaches back to his formative years for “Mr. Slim’s Blues.” The song is a remembrance of simpler days, in which Hanke recalls an 85 year old neighbor of his who used to tell stories and play Muddy Waters tunes while taking a little nip now and then.

Eric Hanke is one of those young artists who is always on the road playing his music. Factory Man is a fine introduction to that music.

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