"Going & Gone" is the third album by Lancaster, PA-based singer-songwriter, Eric Athey. Asked for a soundbite-sized description of his latest collection, Athey offers "21st Century Blue-Eyed Soul." "I don't think the record sounds retro, but the songs and performances on this one definitely owe something to the Stax/Volt and Muscle Shoals sounds from the '60s." To be sure, "Going & Gone" departs from Athey's earlier records by bringing soulful organ solos and Memphis horn parts to the forefront on many tracks. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable ride through a vivid landscape of relationships that have been abandoned and reclaimed, homes being left and resurrected and the refuge that men and women provide each other just to face the day. Athey's new songs are rife with images of leaving and trying to get back home. In "Kingdom of Your Heart" Athey sings:
And I wonder if she ever thinks of me
As friend, or foe or fading memory
Is a new guard in the tower
Is this the 24th hour
Do I stand outside the gate without a key
Pursuing the subject more directly, Athey writes in "Lose to Learn":
When for every sunny day, there's a hundred rainy nights
When it seems that each exchange that you have with him ends up in a fight
And when you never feel more alone, than in the four walls you call your home
Darling, that's when it starts to burn - and you've got to lose to learn
The astute listener will hear influences ranging from Mississippi John Hurt to Otis Redding to Levon Helm to The Black Keys. "Going & Gone" includes one cover, the early Fleetwood Mac instrumental chestnut "Albatross." Says Athey: "I wanted to create a bit of a dream sequence in the middle of the record - to let the thing breathe out - and I thought 'Albatross' tied it together nicely. The song was big in the UK in the late '60s, but not so much in the U.S. - for all I know it may be the equivalent of covering 'Wipeout' in Great Britain." All other songs on the record were penned by Athey and range from uptempo rockers (Kingdom of Your Heart, Bad Luck & Trouble) to mournful soul ballads (Coffeehouse Blues, Lose to Learn, 1BR). "Sunnyland" offers an interesting meshing of delta-blues fingerpicking with a dreamy near-psychedelic conclusion. There is coherence in the song themes and presentations - but each composition is quite distinct.
Athey enlisted the help of standout Philadelphia-based blues act, The Deb Callahan Band, for "Going & Gone": Allen James on lead guitar (formerly of June Rich); Garry Lee on bass (formerly of The Daves) and Tom Walling on drums. Michael Stark of the Johnny Dowd Band plays keyboards throughout. Maddy Walsh of the Ithaca, NY-based band The Blind Spots along with Shannon Paris and Wendy Gaynor add superb backing vocals. Lancaster, PA-based multi-instrumentalist Brian Hurst adds dobro and lap steel at key points. A cracker jack Ithaca-based horn section comprised of Bobby Spellman (trumpet), Emily Pecoraro (tenor sax) and Jason Juliano (alto sax) add punch to a number of the rockers and ballads.
Ithaca-based studio wizard, Matthew Saccuccimorano, produced and added percussion as well as horn arrangements. "Matt and I have worked together on all of my records; he's very quick at figuring out where you're trying to go and helping you get there - I used a different cast for this record, but it felt very natural", says Athey. Athey's prior records "Time/Distance" and "Open House" (both available on CDBaby) found him collaborating with former members of Son Volt, the Mark Lanegan Band and Whiskeytown and garnered favorable reviews from No Depression Magazine and AmericanaUK. "Going & Gone" dips into a different well of American music, but continues to develop the song themes that emerged in Athey's first two records. Athey's longstanding listeners will enjoy the diversion and this collection of new songs may be ripe for a much larger audience. Give it a spin.
Reviews of Athey's Prior Releases:
"Watch this space, Eric Athey might well be destined for great things. The album is almost a virtuoso display of interesting and varied songwriting...."
"...thirteen songs of consistently high quality...a class piece of work..." Americana-UK
"...When a dozen or so rootsy discs with unfamiliar names on the front surface each month, you end up looking for elements that separate one from the rest of the pack. On Eric Athey's Open House, those things are melody, crunch, and brains, plus vocals with the right amount of spit and unpolish - a pretty persuasive four-pack." No Depression
"Five stars - ....This is winning roots rock music at its best. A new album with a new sound for the rock enthusiast...What a sound!" Roots Music Report
"Four stars - ...The simplicity and allure of many of these lyrics just hit home,...This is a very promising debut from a songwriter that has the ability to tell everyday stories with real emotion." ALTCOUNTRYTab.Com
"...F***in' A, what a great record!" Jack Sparks, The Other Side of Countr
"Eric Athey has provided the first surprise of the new year. This singer/songwriter from Pennsylvania has released a very remarkable CD with his debut Open House." www.altcountry.nl (Netherlands)
"...a wild rollercoaster ride of unflinching emotion...delivered...with raw urgency [that] weaves [a] tale through smartly written songs that are at times hard hitting, biting, and often bittersweet. Open House is a gripping album of first rate roots-rock from the very talented Eric Athey." TakeCountryBack.com
"...urgent electrified rockers courtesy of Eric Athey, a Lancaster, PA native with a knack for spinning tough tales and lacing them up with a rock and roll drama." Country Standard Time
"...the thirteen songs plus hidden track...convey a sense of unflinching recall and remembrance with a be-damned attitude...he can definitely write." House of Rock.com (German)
"....The thirteen tracks on this CD unfold like a mini-drama, from infatuation, to alienation, to self-destruction and beyond...As I listened to it, I truly did want to hear what was coming up next. I truly did want to hear all the way through the CD to find out how it all turned out. I won't spoil the ending for anyone except to say that it seemed to end on a realistic note." Clink Magazine
"...damn good." Roots Revival Radio (Belgium)