While Eric George’s songwriting has previously been described as between early Dylan and Appalachia, his eighth release in only half a decade subverts expectations by paying homage to 60s-era rock’n’roll. Where I Start is an album meant to reawaken what made bands like the Doors and Misfits household names, not just in the design of breakneck rock, but in subtle layers of innovative instrumentation. The Burlington singer-songwriter known for his folksier roots hasn’t fully abandoned Americana with this new release, but he is building upon it in a way not quite previously explored with muted guitar tones and psychedelic rhythms.
A multi-instrumentalist, Where I Start is very nearly an entirely self-made effort from George. Aside from some harmonica, violin, cello, and additional vocals laid here and there, as well as mastering courtesy of Jer Coons, it is. The artist deftly wrote, performed, recorded, produced, and mixed each of the 11 tracks of which his latest is comprised. Given its crystalline quality, it’s a wonder. Songs don’t linger with additional bounce or feel too subdued with an ironed flatness—each relays itself to the listener in the same sense that one would assume that a project with so many more hands at the soundboard would.
As for how each song stands on its own, for the sake of its individual quality, George stands alone in his innovative style. It’s easy to draw comparisons to the atmospheric skies painted by the likes of artists like Lord Huron or Langhorne Slim, redolent in calls to naturalism and three-chord folk storytelling held within the crust of rockier production. Still, something else lingers beneath that surface layer, inspired more by classic rock, punk, and surf inclinations and held together by an eclectic, psychedelic whole.
With its bountiful cadences and minor swing, ‘Long Time Blossom Soul’ at the album’s center speaks truth to this assessment. Even in songs like ‘House of Stone’ and ‘What Holds the Bone’ that can be called the more even-keeled Appalachian of the bunch have something more to them—the rebel yell of a Dave Van Ronk or Utah Phillips that makes the generally ordinary far more interesting. The album begins more “out there” than it evolves into, too, with its titular opening track ushering in a tentative rhythm before waxing poetic. It ends, too, on a note reminiscent of Revolver-era Beatles, with a whirling collective of string instrumentation and additional vocals adding more to its soft rock frame.
If nothing more, Where I Start will continue to move the needle in the right direction for George’s burgeoning career in the Northeast. Billed primarily as a folk musician, his latest batch of songs contributes to a greater vision for the artist. While a folk center might remain, he affords to experiment here to aplomb. A gentle rise for the artist beyond the regional suggestion seems apparent.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm