Crooked Fingers

Dignity and Shame

You don't call your record Dignity and Shame unless you're intending something wholeheartedly poignant. Unfortunately, in modern music, that intention often results in songwriting that's forced or trite. But not if you're Eric Bachmann. The Archers of Loaf graduate has, with his latest release, created a melancholy and intimate collection of country-, folk-, and Latin-flavored pop songs, steeped in gentle acoustic guitars and spacious piano, that teems with heartache without ever coming off as cheesy. Bachmann sings about dying flowers, ghosts, and cognac with an urgency that suggests he's either recently had his heart stomped on or he's been renting too much noir from the video store. The singer's low, froggish voice, borrowing equally from Springsteen and Waits, only adds to the bleak but quaint feel of Dignity, as if the cigarettes and whiskey have been by his side the whole time these elaborate, nocturnal tales have unfolded.

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