The Walnut Room provided the perfect flavor of intimacy and concrete last Thursday night to encompass – enthrone – the recording of a local fledgling artist’s second album. The 50-some people gathered to watch and listen to Golden’s Erik Husman were treated to a mix between Merle Haggard and a Pete Seeger that spent more of his life on the rails than in protest. Husman, suffering from a cold that caused between-song hacks, sniffles and a dry-throated rasp, nevertheless marched all of us through two sets of some emotive, lively tunes, most of which were original.
And that crowd loved every one.
Besides the straightforward country-laced progressions and guitar work in his songs, Husman’s voice was the most distinctive feature of the Thursday night show – as it is on his first record, “American Gothic.” The songs he chose to record for this show – slated to be released in mid-May as a second album entitled “The Archaeology of the Let Down” – have actually taken a turn for the more quiet, nearly contemplative from the aggressively jaunty feel of the first record. But it’s all still quite good – and he showed off a pile of originals and a few covers that night alongside the standup snare and high-hat drumming of Eddie Mize and backup vocals on a few songs by photographer Diana Sabreen (some of whose photos of the show are included in this post).
The first set did start out a tad rough, as Husman played hunkered over one of his guitars – usually the acoustic – with his ball cap pulled low over his brow in an attempt to block some of the stage lights. The position of the hat’s bill could’ve been just as much to avert the gaze of the enthralled fans, too – which would have been perfectly understandable for a pretty high-pressure, early gig.
But if Husman suffered from any stage fright or jitters, it wasn’t evident anywhere in the performance. When he and Sabreen shared the sweet desperation of “Dogwood Lane,” they both seemed to be channeling their best Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and a later rendition of “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” sounded like a more contemporary, indie Carter Family.
Husman’s songs are all hit-worthy – especially in a country setting – but perhaps none quite so much as the rough and tumble “Angeline.” The minimalist ballad spits out a story of drunken, fervent passion and self-loathing, with a definite Woody Guthrie feel and railroad cadence. It’s a song you expect to hear in the back of a boxcar in the early spring, or maybe one that genre-mates the Avett Brothers would be likely to cover.
Like most performers worth their weight, Husman got better, more comfortable and more passionate as the night wore on. The second set was stellar, and should make for a unique, possibly vital live recording. Watch for the record to be released some time in May of this year, and keep your eyes on Husman.