Music

Eric Sardinas: Black Pearls

Stephen Haag

Eric Sardinas

Black Pearls

Label: Favored Nations
US Release Date: 2003-08-26
UK Release Date: 2003-08-25
Amazon
iTunes

You wouldn't think a guy like Eric Sardinas would have trouble with the ladies. Plenty of women out there would throw themselves all over a tattooed, braided-hair blues rock guitarist. Maybe it's because he plays acoustic Dobro and electric slide, as opposed to regular old guaranteed-chick-magnet electric guitar, or maybe it's because he's dressed like Liberace's axe-slinging cousin on the back cover of his latest release, Black Pearls, but Sardinas sings a lot of songs about how women have done him wrong. Fortunately, Sardinas is an ace guitarist, and his virtuosity makes up for his pedestrian songwriting. Sardinas's misery is the listeners' benefit, as Black Pearls is, simply, a great guitar record.

Sardinas's voice -- gritty, raspy with a tendency to only half-sing -- wouldn't land him a slot on American Idol, but the man grinds a mean axe (a feat not associated with the typically staid Dobro), and he earns a free pass from me in the vocals department. (When he does sing, however, he sounds akin to Phish's Trey Anastacio, of all people.) So yes, Sardinas's guitar is the star here. While his backing musicians, bassist Paul Lopranger and drummer Mike Dupke could have succeeded just by showing up, their rhythm section performs the important task of grounding Sardinas and keeping him from blasting himself into the stratosphere during one of his solos.

Hard-charging rockers like "Flames of Love" and "Four Roses" shatter the stereotype (in my mind at least; maybe yours too) of the Dobro as a-sittin' and a-pickin' on the backporch cousin of the banjo, or as an essential component of an innocuous 1950s-era singing cowboy variety show. In Sardinas's hands, the Dobro is a mean instrument, the perfect base for his tales of lyin', cheatin' women (what is it about the blues that makes people drop their g's?). The southern-fried "Same Ol' Way" and the smoky, slow-cooking jam "Liar's Dice Blues" both find the Dobro soaring, overcoming Sardinas's laments. The latter is especially fine; it's one of those epic blues tunes that should be 20 minutes long when played in concert.

Sardinas's sound is fuller than it was on previous outings (think the spare "Murdering Blues" and "Cherry Bomb" off his 1999 debut, Treat Me Right), and the bigger sound has given him leeway to dabble in a few new styles. "Big Red Line" and "Old Smyrna Road" are both simple, almost folks arrangements, and mirror each other thematically: on the former (the album's cheeriest cut), Sardinas's narrator is bubbling over, taking the titular train to see his lady (one of the few instances where girls aren't bad); on the latter, his woman gets lost forever on Old Smyrna Road. That these tracks work -- and might be Black Pearls' best despite not being guitar romps -- speaks to Sardinas's versatility and command over his instrument. His only true misstep is "Sorrow's Kitchen", which relies too heavily on atmosphere and gets coated with an unnecessary pop sheen by producer Eddie Kramer.

"Sorrow's Kitchen" aside, Black Pearls is one of those albums that guitar freaks get off on while everyone else shrugs and moves on. Sardinas's passion and ability are unmatched and the fact that he's doing it with a Dobro (and tattoos and braids) should be able to land him a blues-lovin' woman who'll treat him right. Until Sardinas gets happy, blues rock guitar fans the world over should be thankful that he's got the blues.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.