Eric Bachmann To the Races

With his hypnotic voice soaring high in the mix, Eric Bachmann has recorded a spine-tingling, magnificent album with To the Races. As a self-titled solo excursion away from Bachmann’s Crooked Fingers solo project, it’s telling that this is the most intimate collection of songs in the cult hero’s catalogue. Adorned with dense acoustic guitar, some violin, and spare harmony vocals, Bachmann offers up a heady, contemporary collection of troubadour songs. "Man ’O War” begins unassumingly enough before capturing the listener in a storm of imagery. Bachmann’s voice is wounded yet resilient on powerful narratives such as "Home” and the heart-wrenching "Genivieve.” Songs like these conjure a young Bob Dylan becoming cognizant of the torrent of ideas and language at his disposal. Indeed, when a wistful harmonica sounds off in the brilliant "Carboro Woman,” it’s a veritable wink at Bachmann’s muse. Then again, the stark production (Bachmann self-recorded in a hotel in a North Carolina town) nods to Bruce Springsteen’s landmark work on Nebraska just as easily. Sounding wise and hardened beyond his years, Eric Bachmann stakes claim on some sacred ground of his own with To the Races. (Saddle Creek)