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Eric Ziegenhagen - You're Talking to the Wrong Guy

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Artist: Eric Ziegenhagen

Album: You're Talking to the Wrong Guy

Label: self-released

Review date: Mar. 22, 2005

Like his occasional collaborator Edith Frost, Chicago workhorse-songwriter Eric Ziegenhagen (man, how did his forebears get through Ellis Island with that one?) writes melodies that could date back a hundred years. Lyrically, he’s less neurotic – when he sings “You Can’t Hold Love At Bay,” he sounds sincere, and the melancholia on tunes such as “Espresso Machine” remains well between the lines, making nice with the dry humor.

Ziegenhagen recorded You’re Talking to the Wrong Guy with his acoustic guitar, his voice and little else. His execution is simple and clean – his only company comes from occasional violin, and, like everything else here, it’s loathe to show off. He claims a debt to Robyn Hitchcock, but eschews all the glammy flourish of Eye and the other mid-period Hitch albums that clearly inspired him most.

Eric Ziegenhagen’s in a weird bind. Like the best, lonesome neo-folkies under the Thrill Jockey umbrella, his voice cracks like a teenager’s, and he’s prone to brittle solecisms. Some of his numbers (e.g. “Is That Star Wars?”) bear the mark of a fellow who writes glancing around his room, getting broken up about everything he sees and not knowing quite how to articulate it. He’s no Bill Callahan, though – he’s soaked up enough craftsmanship to show he craves attention, and not of the negative kind. He’s close to the middle of the road, but not so close he doesn’t quake when he senses traffic approach.

I trust Eric Ziegenhagen will gravitate toward one pole or the other, given time. Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself pointing at this humble debut, insisting it reflects his vision more honestly than anything else in his catalog.

By Emerson Dameron

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