I sit here today on a friend’s computer a sad, broken man after the remnants of a thunderstorm totally fried mine this past Sunday. I have pretty much lost everything I have ever written, that is to say, the originals, how they were before all the evil editors I have worked with in the past tried to ruin them, destroy my thoughts and ideas. I still have the print copies, expurgated and diluted as they tend to be. It is not enough.
It is in times like this when I turn to some pretty deep music to try to erase the evil thoughts in my mind. The ones telling me to kill.
Once again I turn to Eddie Hinton.
The last, and really, only great white hope of deep soul music, Hinton wrote songs like Dan Penn, sang them like Otis Redding and played guitar like Steve Cropper. Only better. He spent a lot of time in the big recording studios in the deep South when the soul music boom of the late ’60’s/early ’70’s was at it’s peak. He played and wrote songs for artists like Percy Sledge, Johnny Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, the Staple Singers and the list goes on and on. All this was just the start, though. It is where he shaped his sound and honed his craft.
All for one reason: to strike out on his own. He got his chance around 1977 or so. The original Capricorn label wanted an album from him and he was only too eager to deliver. He poured his heart and soul, his sweat and tears, everything he had into the album and it was released. And it was fucking great. Sadly, the label started experiencing legal woes around the same time and the album trickled out to almost no response whatsoever.
It broke him. Shattered his mind to the point he was a mere shell of himself. Another band followed and some recording time but soon he was homeless. A friend found him, luckily, and helped him regain a measure of himself and also helped him put out some records for Rounder Records’ subsidiary Bullseye. While decent, these albums are scattershot – his vocals worn and ragged and his songs mere sketches. His guitar playing remained genius, pouring out of what was left of his shattered soul.
He managed two albums before he found peace in 1995. What we have left are rare albums that are the hopy grail of soul music. I implore you to find anything with his name on it and study it. Inside those grooves are the soul of a man who could do anything before the music business ripped his life from him and left him a limp husk.
Keep an eye out for an exceptionally good 3 CD series of songwriting demos put out by Zane records of Austrailia. Google them and buy those CDs. Both works-in-progress and finished songs are featured and the CDs are riveting. Also find Hard Luck Guy which was released in 1997 on the revived Capricorn label. Twenty years after screwing him and two years after his death, the label released what may actually be his best album – comprised of what he was working on before his death, it is a bittersweet listen – he seemed to have located his genius and was on the verge of putting it all back together.
Listen to these albums before you sign that record deal. And anytime you just don’t feel good about what’s going on. They are classic cry in your beer albums from an artist who could have been a legend many times over. Part of me hopes you never get sad enough to appreciate them.
The Music Nerd Knows……