Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes (album review)

by Woody on January 25, 2012

Another solo effort from the lead singer of a great band. For me, these are always met with a roll of the eyes and low expectations. Alot of times, the songs come off as castoffs from the main band’s output or the lead singer just trying to broaden their horizon in a way that never fits. It never really satisfies my jones but coming off what I considered to be a subpar Hold Steady album, I was anxious to hear what Finn had up his sleeve.

On Clear Heart Full Eyes, Finn manages to walk that delicate line of delivering an album that stands on its own but still manages to hold some connection to The Hold Steady. And oft-mentioned Gideon from The Hold Steady catalog even makes an appearance on the solo debut to provide a connection.

You’ll notice that the tunes are more restrained in tempo and there are no big finishes you come to associate with The Hold Steady. There’s also a nice alt-country feel to the album which gives it a different dimension from straight-ahead bar rock of The Hold Steady. Working with members of Heartless Bastards, Phosphorescent, White Denim, Centro-matic and Mike McCarthy, Finn really put together a band an album that has its own dynamic.

Solo or fronting The Hold Steady; Finn can spin a yarn with the best of them. His ability to tell a tale about on a variety of subjects is what makes his music so special. Whether it be breakups (No Future), potential redemption (New Friend Jesus) or a friend stuck in a rut (Terrified Eyes).Jackson, which Finn explains in great detail on AV Club, contains a line I preached last year at SxSW, “he was sort of like a shark, he had to keep on swimming.

So I don’t know why Craig decided to bang out a solo album. Most of these lyrics could have worked on a Hold Steady album. Maybe he wanted to dabble in the twang a bit. Maybe he wanted to get back to playing in some smaller clubs. Whatever the reason, I am glad he stepped out and got it done.

Craig Finn – New Friend Jesus by Vagrant Records

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