Erik Douglas Tasa,
Take Your Clay Eyes to the Well
(self-produced, 2003)

A desolate landscape, flat lowercase titles, absolute anti-frills packaging; from the outside in Erik Douglas Tasa's Take Your Clay Eyes to the Well radiates preoccupied weariness. From the first lines of "Tell Me Where the Rocks Are," you can hear the truth in that advertising.

Tasa has a great voice for his brand of bruise-hearted, introspective songwriting. Low and smooth with a slight edge, it manages to convey exhaustion and sorrow without descending into the maudlin realms of heartbreak and sentimentality. Few singers can convey the flat vocal affect of grief without actually flattening their vocals. He makes his lyrics clear enough, but the literal meaning of the songs is easy to lose under the constant pressure of that weary voice.

The songs themselves vary as much as they can within Tasa's spare, grey style. While staying mostly to a sort of dark folk sound, Tasa borrows from grunge, rock and even a little country. The distinctions are subtle, and not enough to alleviate the basic unremitting flatness of the album, which may be the intent. While individual tracks stand out from each other in sound, there is no break in the mood of the album, no unexpected swing or lightening of heart. There's a slight uplift in the second half of the album, starting with "'29 Ford Failure." Bearing the title lyric, it carries a slight suggestion of hopeful redemption in its lighter tune and brighter guitar. Not that any true faith comes through in songs like "Sugarchrist and Blackheadlights," with visions of living dead souls and censored lives, but there is some sense that faith might be possible. It creates an interesting tension that gives the later songs more power.

This is an album made of grey days and loneliness, and dark undertow moods which can only be survived by giving in for a while. In that cold grey mood, Erik Douglas has managed to dredge up not just sanity but poetry. Perhaps it will help others handle the walk to Take Your Clay Eyes to the Well.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 20 March 2004