Erik Douglas Tasa,
Medicine Cabinet
(self-produced, 2000)

Medicine Cabinet is a simply done, five-tune CD by Erik Douglas Tasa. Tasa seems to be so quiet and gentle, he doesn't use any capital letters on his CD at all. There's no political agenda here -- he just likes the way it looks.

His voice is delightfully smooth and characteristic of what you'd expect from the folk genre. The guitar playing is excellent and complements his lyrics quite well. It's just Tasa and his guitar on this recording -- i.e., no special effects, unless you count the angelic harmonies on most of the tunes by Carol Luce. If you turn the lights down while you're listening to it, you will be instantly transported to a little coffeehouse or quiet, smoky, downtown bar.

It's the lyrics that are captivating and set Tasa apart from other folk artists. He is quite poetic, often using a stream-of-consciousness approach, baring his soul in his quest for truth and meaning in this, our daily existence. There are a number of religious references (Tasa refers to his work as his form of Christian music, although that never occurred to me until he mentioned it), as the songwriter asks his questions, looks for answers and usually only comes up with part of what he's looking for -- "the promise of heaven doesn't ease up the days, the hour of my need is now" (title cut, "medicine cabinet"). It's a quizzical response on his part -- not accusing, not angry, not despair, and certainly not proselytizing. It's more of a hesitant hopefulness, making an assumption that just because he can't always see the Bible's Almighty, doesn't mean He isn't there -- "if you can't see my jesus by my side it's just that i'm in his way" (from "redline").

He doesn't limit himself to the religious theme, however. There's the wistfulness of relationships in motion (something every folk musician needs to address at some point in his art) in the following tentative lines from "be my star":

"i'm in a secret plot here girl to overthrow my silence with you
but i surrender every word into a stare
because you've such a beautiful face
one of these nights maybe i'll find a way to tell you what it does to me."

And while the emotion may appear heartbreaking, the tone of the music keeps it from sounding like a gloomy dirge.

There's also a bold admission that takes responsibility for his own actions in "seven year stain" -- something you don't see often in this age of blaming someone else for our problems:

"since i painted over all the windows in the house
i don't have any real say on when i'm getting out
they just lay me down and have their way again."

Many of the lyrics are open to the listener's interpretation, something Tasa intends whenever circumstances allow. For instance, in "seven year stain" he writes, "sleeping underneath the cross and walking through the soon to be/i've been tasting these days ever since my first morning." Or is it mourning? It's whatever strikes home with the listener, as far as Tasa is concerned.

One particular line grabbed my attention, and although I'm probably interpreting it differently than was intended (and Tasa wouldn't care if I did, I hope), it brilliantly captured the hypocrisy I find so infuriating these days -- "if i could check my skin in at the door i could be in heaven today." That people still refuse to see past another's outward appearance is quite depressing. And as Tasa goes on to state, it "just add[s] scars to grace."

At the time of this writing, there is no website, and unless you live around Minneapolis and frequent the Turf Club, or the Uptown Bar and Grill, the best way to get your own copy of this CD is by e-mailing Tasa.

[ by Alanna Berger ]
Rambles: 3 August 2002