Eric Hofbauer

American Vanity

Creative Nation Music


Here's a very loose-limbed and acerbic group of solo acoustic guitar improvs and covers, many of them brilliant. The Velvet Underground's (and I kid you not) "Femme Fatale" is run through a John Fahey sausage gnnder (in fact, the late Fahey's elliptical humor, such as that found on CITY OF REFUGE, his visit to slide-guitar heaven - or hell, depending on your opinion - is well represented here) to appropriately deconstructed effect; the theme to everybody's favorite TV show of the '80s, "Dukes of Hazzard," is returned to Waylon Jennings' roots, and a take of Mingus' "Better Git Hit In Your Soul" notably seeks out and finds the tune's R&B undercarriage. Change 'Lord' to 'Baby,' indeed. But Massachusetts native Hofbauer can pen some winners too, such as the strangled reversed blues of "The Fad": a repeated figure opens each discreet phrase until Hofbauer detonates it with a skirl of string-scratching a la Abercrombie/Holland/DeJohnette. You might recall their recordings for ECM in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And Hofbauer's "Coke (for our addicts)", "New Coke (part 1)" and "New Coke (part 2)" label the beast which French intellectuals used to lambaste us with... until we all realized that multinationals are their own nation-states! Who knew?

For this 3-part suite our intrepid guitarist makes of the guitar a percussion instrument, wringing all sorts of buzzing Afro-Eastern lunacy out of the situation. Mr. Hofbauer pays affecting and accurate tribute to Satie's "Gnossienne #1" and Eric Dolphy's "Mandrake," and in a burst of kind gesture also combines two sets of Christmas songs ("Greensleeves In Vermont," "Ode to Little Drummer Joy") -- for busy consumers, he says. Pretty funny!

But lest anyone think that Hofbauer retains much of the late Frank Zappa's disdain for American popular culture, note that as ironic as much of this CD's music may come off it retains at least one clapping hand for the American idea. Yes, we are myopic and often too busy to read our own tea leaves -- even when they correctly predict where lurks the pothole our minivan is going to fall into -- but, this CD implies, it's when we stop pointing them out that we all start to believe they'll never get fixed. Besides, this is such a well-varied, absorbing and resourcefully well-programmed CD that you can just put it on, go back to what you were doing, and let differing bits each time call you out. A bit like watching TV, but it's good for you! Nice job, Mr. Hofbauer.

by Kenneth Egbert