Personnel: Ricky Ray Jackson, Billy White (guitar); Katie Holmes (fiddle); Catherine Davis (piano, organ, keyboards); Jesse Ebaugh (organ, upright bass, bass guitar); Josh Block (drums, percussion); Hope Irish, Will Johnson (background vocals).
Recording information: The Mansion, Austin, TX (07/2011).
Photographers: Andrew Yates ; Don Weir.
Whether he's spinning tales of arson and murder over the angular, synth-kissed indie rock of Lifter Puller, or recounting the excesses and fatal flaws of his fictional Twin Cities denizen with the Hold Steady's swagger-filled bar rock behind him, Craig Finn has always had a way of blending in with whatever music he's accompanied by without losing his writerly voice. With its mellow, lonely sound, Finn's solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes, finds the songwriter looking for a change of sonic scenery that feels more like a vacation from his other work than a departure, with the singer maintaining his identity as a songwriter as he adapts to a more distinctly country sound. Over the course of its 11 tracks, the album unfolds like a series of vacation snapshots that show Finn being himself in a new locale. Unsurprisingly, the singer is able to deftly adapt to his new surroundings, with his narrative, story-filled lyrics taking on a newfound earnestness that reflects the plaintive strains of pedal steel that weaves in and out of these more restrained arrangements. This ability to meld with, rather than take over, the songs he's on is a testament to Finn's abilities not just as a lyricist and a singer, but as a raconteur. Finn's guileless, observational create a clean, engrossing narrative that allows listeners to escape into another world for a few minutes at a time. Though this kind of approach doesn't leave a whole lot up to interpretation, its directness gives you the opportunity to contemplate the "who," "where," when," and "why" of the songs rather than just the "what." Anyone expecting the bar rock bravado of the Hold Steady is probably going to be disappointed by Clear Heart Full Eyes' subdued vibe, but anyone looking for more of Craig Finn's sprawling tales will feel right at home. ~ Gregory Heaney
Craig Finn is a Minnesota-bred singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Finn's highly descriptive lyrical style has a focus on narrative, crafting whole worlds for the people in his songs to exist within. In 1994, the singer put this style to work with Lifter Puller, refining his craft over the course of their three albums. Finn relocated to New York, where he worked on Brokerdealer in 2001 before reuniting with Lifter Puller bassist Tad Kubler to form the Hold Steady. While the band's whiskey-fueled bar rock sound was a departure from the angular, synth-filled sounds of Lifter Puller, Finn's storytelling style remained intact. During some downtime, Finn recorded a solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, released in 2012. ~ Gregory Heaney
Rolling Stone (p.60) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Cut with a country-rock pickup band, his first solo album is full of bleakly funny noir tales."
Magnet (p.49) - "In lieu of the Hold Steady's effusive bombast, Finn's first solo effort offers a more tempered, reflective sound that pushes some of his finest rock tropes in new directions."
Paste (magazine) - "Finn has kept his eye for detail...and he still does what he does best in blending religious concerns with thoughts of classic rock `n' roll..."
Pitchfork (Website) - "'Terrified Eyes' shuffles around on a laidback beat and a rangy, almost alt-country guitar, as he takes the conspiratorial tone of a tour guide pointing out the sites of crimes and scandals."