“Life is never going to go exactly the way you think it will,” says Eric Tessmer, “but I’ve come to appreciate that fact. Good things take time.”
Tessmer’s stellar new release, ‘EP II,’ is proof of that. Three years in the making, the collection was recorded in Los Angeles with acclaimed producer Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses), and it finds the incendiary Austin guitarist matching his technical flash with new heights of lyrical craftsmanship and studio sophistication. The performances here represent Tessmer’s most raw, powerful work to date, tackling sobriety, commitment, and redemption with both deep insight and fearless vulnerability. It’s a remarkable step in an already remarkable career, one that showcases a virtuosic instrumentalist boldly stretching his limits and embracing his artful evolution as a singer and songwriter.
“I wanted to go deeper than I ever have before with this EP,” says Tessmer. “I still love ripping things up on the guitar, but this time around, I wanted to save that more for the live show and really focus on concision in the studio.”
A Wisconsin native, Tessmer developed his love affair with music through a kind of familial osmosis. Both his grandmother and father played guitar, and Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Cream were all staples around the house growing up. Inspired in part by watching reruns of Austin City Limits on his local PBS station, Tessmer moved to Texas straight out of high school, and he quickly garnered a formidable reputation there for his fierce fretwork and explosive live performances. He cut his teeth playing residencies in clubs and bars, shared stages with everyone from Gary Clark, Jr. to Tab Benoit, and released a series of live and studio albums that earned widespread critical acclaim, with the Austin Chronicle dubbing him an “SRV-fast firebrand” and the Austin American Statesman hailing him as a “working class guitar hero.”
‘EP II’ reflects the loose, energetic freedom that’s become Tessmer’s trademark, with searing rocker “The Treatment” kicking things off with an infectious guitar riff that at once calls to mind AC/DC and ZZ Top. It’s a love song, no doubt, but in typical Tessmer fashion it comes with a dark edge, a hint of danger that flows just beneath the surface. The slow-burning “Good So Bad” grapples with the rollercoaster of addiction and recovery, while the eerie “Early Early Morning” mixes romance and film noir, and the swampy “Po’ Boy” is a funky instrumental fireworks show. Though the collection prizes economy, Tessmer’s sprawling cover of friend and collaborator Anders Osborne’s “Love Is Taking Its Toll” is a notable exception, clocking in at ten minutes of blistering guitar work and smoldering vocals. Of all the standout moments on the EP, though, it’s perhaps the soulful “Simple Solution,” an anthemic ode to music itself, that captures Tessmer’s spirit best.
“I must have had ten different sets of lyrics for that song,” he remembers. “I felt this pressure to be ‘profound,’ but then I realized that the most profound thing I could do was to stop taking myself too seriously, crank the music up, and do what I love to do.”
It may have taken a while to get there, but the finished product is everything Tessmer hoped it would be and more. Good things take time, after all, and a collection as strong as ‘EP II’ is undoubtedly worth the wait.
Greyhounds are the Austin trio of Anthony Farrell (vocals, keyboards), Andrew Trube (vocals and guitar) and Ed Miles (drums). Many music fans remember Farrell and Trube as key members of JJ Grey’s band MOFRO for many years. After parting with Grey in 2016 to focus full-time on Greyhounds, the band has only left the road to record and release two full-length records.’
In 2016, while recording at Sun Studios for the PBS series “Sun Studio Sessions”, Greyhounds met Memphis native and acclaimed engineer, Matt Ross-Spang. Soon afterwards, Matt moved his operation to the newly refurbished Sam Phillips Recording studio. Greyhounds were familiar with the studio, and its deep history, and had always wanted to record there. It is the type of space that transports you to another era; the perfect place to make the type of record Greyhounds were interested in making: a less produced, and more spontaneous style of recording, all straight to tape like many of the classic music that was made there in its heyday. And Ross-Spang, is the perfect engineer, steeped as he is in the old school style of making records.
Pulling from 17 years of songwriting, Trube and Farrell had plenty of material to choose from. “It was a chance to look back at some of our favorite tunes that we had never recorded” says Trube. Because there were only 3 days in which to record and mix the record, Greyhounds knew they would have to be ready to perform these songs seamlessly, just like they would at a live show. “When recording to tape you have to make commitments. It is a lesson in letting go and not getting hung up on things. Its liberating.”
13 songs were recorded and mixed over the course of those three days. There were special guest appearances from some of their good Tennessee friends Dante Schwebel, Will Sexton, Amy LaVere, and Art Edmaiston. “When you are going at that pace, you don’t get a lot of time to second guess yourself. You learn to trust your instincts and be more present in the moment.” says Farrell of the breakneck pace of recording.
Cheyenne Valley Drive is a product of a band at the height of their game, making music in a studio that has been virtually untouched by time, recording in the style that many of their musical heroes used. Basically a dream come true. A dream they want to share with you.