Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ernie Halter - Starting Over


As glass. Like a clean shaven pate. A new born baby’s butt.

You can call me a cynical bastard if you want, but I expected this album to be a poor man’s version of Jack Johnson or Ryan Adams. Not sure where that impression came from, but it was my initial vibe. Fortunately for all parties, Ernie Halter has more in common with Jonny Lang or AJ Croce. He brings soulful vocals with a bit of a funky vibe, a passionate voice that can turn the mood somber and then turn around in the next breath to give the soul a lift to greater heights. He bounces around the various musical genres like Pooh Bear's Tigger bounces from one mishap to another. One moment, I’m listening to R&B, the next, I’m listening to funk. Before I’ve realized I’ve shifted genres, I’m listening to blues, calypso, and gospel. This dude doesn’t seemed satisfied with being lumped into one category, and for that, he’s a perfect addition to The Ripple Effect family! After wallowing around in the morose world of death metal for the past week or so, slipping in a copy of Ernie Halter’s Starting Over was the ray of light that I needed to pull me out of the darkness.

Starting Over opens with “Different Lives,” and with Ernie’s voice hitting all of the right marks. Through the verses, there’s a somewhat plaintive tone going on as Ernie tells the tale of how everything went wrong during a relationship, and then shifts to a more uplifting and hopeful tone as he reaches the chorus and has found some acceptance that the two went their separate ways. “Different Lives” is a well written bluesy, R&B type track that tells a captivating story. I particularly liked the lyrics about taking down the pictures from the house, removing the reminders of the pain. The breakdown towards the end of the track where we’re left with just Ernie’s voice and a muted acoustic guitar hammering away is a wonderful production touch.

Things get downright funky with “Blue Dress.” The bass work from Zachary Rudulph adds the vibe that makes this tune a true funk burner. Ernie takes the vocals to a new level of sultry suave, pining for that hot chick in the blue dress. In my mind’s eye, I see her too, and I see what the big deal is! That dress is driving me just as crazy! It’s a true talent for a musician to so vividly create an image that the listener can key into.

“My Heart Is With You” has that jazzy blues based piano layin’ down the foundation of the tune, but it’s Ernie’s voice and lyrics that are in the spotlight. It’s another great tale of love, and about missing that special girl who happens to be miles away. It’s filled with all of that heartfelt sentiment that you’re looking for to tug on the heart strings. The tune is followed up with the David Ryan Harris (Follow For Now) penned ditty, “Pretty Girl,” which walks in hand with “My Heart Is With You.” Heartfelt and sentimental, stripped down to its roots, the song is just fun. Performed with just an acoustic guitar, it’s one of those tunes that you can’t help but smile while listening to.

Ernie flirts with a bit of the Caribbean vibe and shows his musical versatility with the calypso drenched tune, “Crazy Love.” Again, listen to the bass groove. Well performed, all over the place without getting scattered. Nice work all around on this tune!

“Cyclone” is one of the more intriguing tunes on the disc as Ernie embraces a completely different type of tune in that this one was originally written and recorded for the dance club circuit. Written by Babybash and apparently a club hit, Ernie took the tune and stripped the techno beats and electronica from it, and broke the song down to its foundation. Just a cool, groovin’ rhythm played on an acoustic guitar, Ernie half rapping, half crooning. Man! Hell of job! Again, the man is showing some mad versatility going from R&B, blues, jazz, then into calypso and hip hop, for lack of a better term. But, his crowning achievement and most heartfelt moment was saved for the very last track in “Lighthouse.”

I can’t express enough how incredible this tune is. You simply need to hear it for yourselves. Rather than completely leave y’all hangin’, here are a few thoughts on the tune. “Lighthouse” draws more from gospel than any of the other genres mentioned and has that “Lean On Me” or “Bridge Over Troubled Water” spirit, inspiration, and power. I hear this tune, and I reminiscence on when music was a vehicle of power rather than a cash machine. Finding the strength to be that savior for someone who’s lost is heady stuff, and Ernie’s performance on this track is as captivating as the two aforementioned classics.

I’ve heard the old adage my entire life, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Blah, blah, blah. I know. I’m a creature of habit. I'm working on it. But fortunately, Ernie Halter is one of the key components to my breaking this nasty habit of casually casting stuff aside before I’ve given it a fair chance. Starting Over is a phenomenal album! I speak from the heart here folks. There’s not a bad track on this thing, and the tracks that I’ve mentioned are my attempt to key your initial focus on the highlights. Once you’ve gone through the album and recognized these highlights, the rest of the albums subtle beauty will unfold for you and you’ll be transfixed by sounds that were created by the heavens. Seriously. I’m not saying that Ernie is God, just that he’s potentially a vessel for heavenly works. ‘nuff said . . . great album, pick it up, embrace its warmth and beauty, and be a better person for it.

-- Pope JTE

Buy here: Starting Over

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