Review: Eric Gales 'Crown' Eclectic and Reflective

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 28, 2022

Review: Eric Gales 'Crown' Eclectic and Reflective

"How can you love what I do, but hate who I am?," Eric Gales sings a cappella at the start of "The Storm" on his excellent new album, "Crown," a collection of songs that, at points, probes what it means to be a Black man in America.

"Crown" was informed by a question he'd been pondering: "What made George Floyd any different than me?" From there, songs both political and personal began to pour out of him. As a result, Gales said, the impact of "sharing my experiences as a Black man, and my private struggles" often left him in tears between tracking vocals.

Later in the album, Gales addresses racial profiling and stereotypes. "Persecuted for the look on my face, don't tell me it's not about race," he asserts on "Survivor." On "Too Close to the Fire," he questions, "Would you be friends with me? Would you be scared of me? If you saw me on the street? Would you even care about me? Give a shit about me? Would you even notice me?" And then he turns his attention to those privileged folks who refuse to speak out against police brutality, remaining content "in your silence because it's not happening to you."

Sitting alongside such strong socio-political messages, Gales also turns inward with statements reflecting on his growth during five years of sobriety. Album opener "Death of Me" begins with a spoken "my name is Eric Gales — any questions?" followed by a propulsive blues-rock guitar riff, establishing the personal manifesto of this album. Elsewhere, the funky strut of "Let Me Start With This" functions as a statement of faith, while "I Found Her," a gorgeous acoustic ballad with accordion (at least until the band kicks in at 4:40 and Gales lets rip a passionate guitar solo) is an ode to the redemptive power of newly discovered true love.

"My Own Best Friend," a bluesy ballad that recalls both Robert Cray and Bonnie Raitt, is a mature statement on recovery, self-realization and self-care. By the way, it would be awesome to hear Cray or Raiit wrap their vocal cords around this gem. The brisk jump blues of "I Gotta Go," clearly written to conclude his live shows, wraps the album on a natural high.

It should be noted, however, that the overall reflective nature of "Crown" shouldn't be taken to mean that the album is mellow. Rather, "Crown" is an eclectic and, at 16 tracks, generous offering filled with plenty of blues, rock, and funk (check out "I Want My Crown," "Put That Back" and "Take Me Just As I Am") alongside gorgeous R&B ballads ("Stand Up" is quite a beauty) and three instrumental vignettes ("Had to Dip," "Rattlin' Change," and "Cupcakin'"). After three decades and eighteen albums, "Crown" is a triumphant examination of the personal and the political, appealing to the heart, head, body, and dancing feet in equal measure.

Eric Gales' "Crown" is available now.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.