A fine second album from Hank Erwin full of songs from a life well lived.
There are some people who live ordinary and mundane lives and there are others whose lives seem like a script for a movie – Hank Erwin’s life definitely falls into the latter category.
Born and raised in Newport Kentucky, Erwin joined the merchant marines and spent five years clocking up 200000 nautical miles. When he returned home in 2014, he was determined to follow his dreams and have a career in music. However, having recorded his debut album ‘Million Miles’, in 2015 his relationship ended, he lost his home and was diagnosed with cancer – life was giving him a bit of a kicking. However, some friends helped him get back on his feet and things were looking up when he was asked to go on tour with Porter & The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes. Then just before they were due to leave and go on the road, frontman Chris Porter decided to cut costs and go out as a trio which left Erwin at home kicking his heels. This may have been a blessing in disguise as Porter and bassist Mitchell Vandenburg were killed in a terrible car crash which left the third member of the band, drummer Adam Nurre severely injured.
Now five years later, Erwin has released his second album ‘The Copper Album’ and things are finally looking up. Produced by Erwin, it was recorded at Portside Studios in Sheffield, Alabama. Erwin’s backing band consisted of Nurre on drums, former Drive-By Truckers and Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes member Shonna Turner on bass and Daniel Stoddard, of St. Paul & the Broken Bones, on pedal steel. In addition, they were joined on a couple of tracks by Jonathan Farley on trumpet and Kimi Samson on strings.
The twelve tracks highlight Erwin’s superb well-worn, whiskey smoked rich baritone and the musicians back him up with verve and vigour. The album starts with five fairly slow tracks before ‘Deal With Devil’ ups the tempo with its big sound, powerful guitar and heavy reverb on Erwin’s voice. The other standout tracks are ‘Sally’ a song about his lost friends that features Stoddard’s mournful pedal steel, some mariachi style trumpet from Farley and some delightful female harmonies, ‘You’re Dead’ with Samson on cello and ‘Hail The Copper Queen’ with its rolling, Duane Eddy style guitar intro. The album ends with ‘Hell Or Harlan (Reprise) Brittany’s Melody’ which is a bit of an oddity as it’s a ten-minute rock instrumental with a fuzz box guitar and organ which would be perfect at a gig but doesn’t quite work in the context of the eleven tracks that proceed it.
Erwin’s lyrics are cinematic and narrative driven and he writes from a lifetime of experiences, some good, some not so good. His always interesting songs tell stories about boats, driving, friends, places he’s visited, his Dad, the Devil, bad weather and love amongst other topics. Never clichéd and full of emotion, Erwin has written some fine songs that will stand repeated listening both on record and on stage which is probably where his musical heart lies.