Eric Himan trades his guitar for a piano to revisit his musical catalog
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Proof that Eric Himan has an astounding amount of determination is found in his new CD, Out with the Old. Himan challenged himself to learn the piano and then reinterpreted some of his own tunes into an altogether different sound on this collection of 12 songs — 11 covers of his own stuff and one new track. The results are a valiant effort that, even with some lulls, comes out on top.
He recorded the album live, though not in front of an audience. Instead, these takes were captured at his piano instructor’s home. This approach works nicely and conveys a strange intimacy, though sometimes he would have benefited from adjusted levels of his voice and piano.
Opening with “Until the Road Unwinds,” Himan gives no hint that he’s a piano novice. He must have magic hands because his work here is sublime. The ballad starts off the CD slowly, but opens up the mind and ear quickly to his new sound. The song itself holds up well in this interpretation, but immediately we hear that while Himan can play nicely, he doesn’t show off. The CD is a bold move, but Himan knows he isn’t Billy Joel — yet. Although if that’s the direction he’s headed it, it’s not a bad one.
Then “White Horse” happens. Despite showing shades of Jerry Lee Lewis, Himan misses here, and badly. The lyrics feel rushed as if he’s squeezing in words to fit the rhythm. On its own, the song is the equivalent of ill-fitting shoes, losing the rockabilly fun from its original form. Himan needs to master the pace between the piano and his faster songs.
But on his slower tunes and ballads, the music shines. “Clyde” plays with tenderness and he works the keys in both complex and moody fashions. Then we start hearing him stretching out his vocal runs as if the new translation is setting him free. He’s not only putting his piano playing to the test, but his voice as well.
This continues on “Kinda Hard.” He can handle the instrument for these steadier tunes but his earnestness is etched into the song. When he sings the line, I mean nothing to you, nothing sounded more painful. “One Less Person” and “One Night Stand” fare the same beautiful fate with share the right delicacy and proper musical approach. You could say this album is a bit narcissistic if he just wants to show off what he’s learned, but if it’s gonna sound like this all the time, then by all means, show off.
The original track “Gonna Make it Work,” somehow misses all the marks. Himan starts intently but he begins to ramble. The song builds to an uneven chorus. Himan has a uniquely high-pitched voice but he needed to downshift registers here — either that or slow the song down.
It’s unfortunate to end on a sloppy note, because up to this point, the albums play with nice cohesion regardless of its couple of stumbles. But props to Himan for trying something new — at the very least, it keeps him interesting, and listeners interested.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.