It's not too difficult to sing like Neil Diamond. Walk into any karaoke joint and you can catch a killer version of "Sweet Caroline" or even "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" spilling out in a deep, rumbling grumble from any lonesome hooligan with a sense of humor. But lending validity to a caldron of kitsch-heavy songs isn't the easiest thing to do.
Cue Eric Bachmann, the former leader of Archers of Loaf and emerging genius of Crooked Fingers. He sounds like Diamond, yes. But imagine Diamond's yearning voice coming from a man with the self-examining eyes of Elliott Smith and Grimm Brothers-type narratives spilling out of his mouth.
Bachmann noticeably despises the Diamond comparison and then turned around to cover "Solitary Man" for his Merge Records debut in 2003. He's full of luscious contradiction that sounds great on vinyl and even better in a dimly lit tavern.
"I love those ballads to take your girl out on the dance floor to, but I play a mean rockin' guitar, too," he laughs over the phone from his new home in Seattle. Every new recording session morphs into a new monster for Bachmann, who plays a role akin to Dick Van Dyke's one-man Mary Poppins band for Crooked Fingers. He's still reveling in the satisfaction of recording his fourth album, Dignity and Shame, released in February.
"If you're going to do something creative, you might as well stay away from the formula of the thing," he says. "My music has become less self-absorbed. It used to be "fuck everyone else,' but now I want people to respond to my music, and that's huge. It actually makes it more fun."
Bachmann's vivid stories tell of being lost, of solitude among the types who connect sleep with trips to the bar. He strums his tales but allows himself to disappear in the process.
"I used to be very secretive about what I was doing on a record," he says. "It was always my baby and I was in charge and in control. Now I'm starting to delegate and that is liberating. I feel very fulfilled by Crooked Fingers, more than anything I've done in the past and it's because I'm finally starting to loosen up and collaborate like grown-ups do. I feel satiated, and I think the music sounds that way, too."Crooked Fingers plays with Dolorean at the Casbah, 9 p.m. on April 14. $10. 619-232-HELL.