Craig Bickhardt | Easy Fires

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Folk: Folk Pop Country: Country Folk Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Easy Fires

by Craig Bickhardt

A journeyman songwriter's solo debut, intelligent songs, acoustic guitar virtuosity, soulful vocals and a touch of celtic influence round out this former SKB Band member's new CD.
Genre: Folk: Folk Pop
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1. Easy Fire
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2. The Only Way I Know
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3. Sugarcane Street
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4. Where I Used To Have A Heart
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5. Pay Your Love On Time
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6. Still The Voice
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7. Troubled Shores
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8. One Rose
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9. I Can't Turn The Tide
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10. Dance With Father Time
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11. The Ransom
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12. St. Martin's Summer
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Easy Fires: some notes by Barry Alfonso

Craig Bickhardt tells me that the title of his new album came to him in a dream -- and who can argue with messages from the Beyond? Certainly not songwriters.

But "Easy Fires" does carry some irony with it, if you take easiness to imply the sort of quick, off-the-cuff creation that anyone could accomplish.

Make no mistake: you can't simply rub two sticks together and make these kind of artistic sparks fly, metaphorically speaking.

Actually, the songs on Easy Fires are more like the long-smoldering underground infernos that rage in the coalmines of Bickhardt's native state of Pennsylvania.

They burn strong and deep, timeless and unstoppable.

Over the years, Craig has penned hits for the likes of the Judds, Pam Tillis, Ty Herndon and Martina McBride, to name only a few.

His contributions to the soundtrack of Robert Duvall's Tender Mercies were crucial to that classic film.

But much of his best work has gone unheard until now.

Fans of Craig's music have waited a long time for this album to happen.

What's remarkable is the consistency of these tunes, written over a span of decades.

They survey themes that Craig has returned to time and again: love and loss, the quiet drama in everyday life, the intimations of the spirit behind the ordinary.

The song craftsmanship here is exemplary, the lyrics as finely-wrought as the writings of a Robert Frost or a Jimmy Webb.

Time-honored folk and country styles resonate in his music, and a rock edge asserts itself as well.

But this is much more than a collection of songs by a seasoned professional.

Easy Fires is highly personal, sometimes disturbingly so -- there are no easy answers for the lovers, losers and seekers portrayed here (all of them Craig, I suspect, in one guise or another).

The romanticism found on Easy Fires is the hard-won kind, tempered by sadness and defeat, strengthened by heartache.

You can hear it in tunes as different as "Troubled Shores," "The Only Way I Know" and "Where I Used To Have A Heart." For all the sweep and scope of his writing, Craig can turn around and deliver a song as homespun as "One Rose" as if he were kin to the Carter Family.

If he's not quite Everyman -- he thinks way too much to be that guy, for one thing -- he's a master at finding something profound in the everyday, as in his bittersweet ode to parenthood, "Dance With Father Time." Easy Fires is a work of inspiration and passion, the sort of album that arrives only when it's ready to, apart from the pop music fads of the moment.

It's a rare gem that few artists could deliver.

Trust me, Craig Bickhardt only makes it sound easy.


Reviews


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Teresa Orosco

just can't stop playing it! Craig, my grandchild, Talon loves "EF" as much as "P
Really great work! Image of perfection.....

Mark T. Gould

Gem of a record...
You might think that with the death of Waylon Jennings and the illness besetting Johnny Cash, that Nashville is bereft of strong songwriters.


Not so long as we have one as talented as Craig Bickhardt around.


What’s amazing is that someone of Bickhardt’s magnificent songwriting credentials took so long to release “Easy Fires,” his debut record.


No matter, though, because it’s heartfelt singing, playing and songs are well worth the wait.


Those who are fans of Nashville music should be no stranger to Bickhardt, who has penned, or co-penned, hits for a number of artists including the Judds, Ty Herndon, Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea, and Trisha Yearwood, to name but a few, in the almost 20 years he’s been involved with the city’s music production.


Yet, it’s this wonderful sounding record that is finally giving Bickhardt his own voice. In the liner notes, Bickhardt says the songs on his debut mix longing, dreams, relationships and circumstance, heady topics that could, in a lesser writer and performer’s hands, be presented as tritely as they come. However, Bickhardt clearly brings to bear his experience in letting both his lyrics and his music paint the tapestry that winds through the emotion of these experiences, without resorting to hackneyed, cliched answers where, just maybe, no answers exist, anyway. This gem of a record makes you yearn, makes you think, makes you weep and makes you smile, no small task in itself.


This is truly a remarkable debut by a major talent.

Len Jaffe

A pleasant surprise from the Nashville Songwriting Community
"Easy Fires" is the first of what I hope will be more solo releases by Craig Bickhardt. Formerly with the Nashville- based group "(Thom) Schuyler, (Fred) Knobloch, and Bickhardt, Craig enjoyed performing success during the mid-1980's, and has written songs for many of the more popular country acts over the years. Finally, Craig has recorded a wonderful cross-section of material from his pen, and the result is a resiliant, positive statement of articulate lyrics and haunting melodies. Anyone who harbors the notion of becoming a songwriter needs to hear this beautifully crafted album of material, old and new. Bickhardt's voice keeps your attention focused on the material throughout the album with spare arrangements that feature Wendy Waldman on backing vocals. "Where I Used To Have A Heart" and "I Can't Turn The Tide" will be familiar to fans of Martina McBride and Baillie and the Boys. "Sugarcane Street" and "Dance With Father Time" will stand out as two of the catchiest songs you'll ever hear, and "Pay Your Love On Time" has some of the nicest finger-picking you'll hear anywhere. An 11 on a scale of 1 to 10!

Kent Forward

Powerful and Elegant
The songs on this CD immediately transport me to a special place that few CDs do, straight to the heart with elegant lyrics, beautiful melodies and powerful performances. You know that handful of CDs that you want to listen to over and over again? This is one of them. Craig has crafted an album that could easily rest alongside James Taylor's Greatest Hits as one of those CDs that you don't want to take out of your CD player. He proves that there is hope for music these days, that music is still being made that can last, and Easy Fires will burn for a long time.

Shirley

Finally... beautiful poetry set to music and wonderful to listen to.
I put the CD in the player and started listening............ the next thing I knew it was over. So easy and wonderful to listen to, with not one song asking to be skipped. Very rare in a CD. If you like beautiful poetry/story telling set to artistically layered and well designed music, this CD is for you.

Laura Turner Lynch

A blaze of poetry, expert instrumentation and passionate vocals!
Craig creates beautiful soundscapes through his articulate, visual lyrics. His vocals are clear, smooth and soulful. Bickhardt writes about love, loss, spirit and everyday events that are conveyed in timeless images and haunting melodies. Craig weaves rock, folk, country and Celtic into amazing arrangements. He is supported by talented musicians and expert production on this twelve-track compilation. The title track 'Easy Fires' has a Celtic flare, haunting vocals, powerful lyrics and soft subtle instrumentation. 'Sugarcane Street' is an idyllic place with crisp imagery and eloquent lyrics "time seems to flow slow as molasses, past row upon row of white weathered fences, where kind neighbors meet". The mandolin and fiddle add to the dreamy peaceful flow of this scene. 'I Can't Turn the Tide' ebbs and flows on the sweet sound of flutes, birds and the Autoharp. Beautiful backing vocals, by Wendy Waldman drifts effortlessly into Craig's silky sound. Poetic lyrics explain the reality that we can't always change things. Easy Fires is a blaze of poetry, expert instrumentation and passionate vocals!

Dave

Thooghtful, intelligent and wonderfully delivered.
If you like intelligent, well written songs delivered with emotion, buy this. It will see a lot of play.

Red Truck Radio

Play this one over and over; the songs don't wear out
These songs keep killing me, time after time. Craig Bickhardt's voice is good enough to sing just about any song, but these masterpieces he has written would sound great sung by just about any voice! And the combination of his voice and his songs is stunning. They wear in, not out. "Easy Fire" speaks to the human condition, "Still the Voice" is pure faith, "Dance With Father Time" made me pull over in the car because I couldn't see for the tears in my eyes. Sugarcane street still makes me dance! Buy one--or better , two, because the CD will wear out eventually but these songs won't.