The most recent time I saw The Mountain Goats live in concert, there was one particular song during which a gentleman came out — “This Year” — and he sang half the lyrics. Everyone was more than thrilled when this gentleman came out onstage. Afterward I asked the person with whom I went if he knew anything about the gentleman and he told me that it was Craig Finn, the lead singer of The Hold Steady.
I did some research and borrowed a few albums of The Hold Steady and really enjoyed them quite a bit. I was intrigued to find out that Craig Finn was coming out with a solo album. I loved the way that Mr. Finn sang and so it was an easy sell for me.
The album is Clear Heart, Full Eyes, the name of which came from the television show Friday Night Lights. In some ways the album intrigues me because to me, the traditional solo album is a departure from the work that the solo artist does with the group. If the solo artist’s work is no different than the work done with the group, then why would it necessitate breaking apart from the group?
In spirit and feel, the album is not too much of a departure from The Hold Steady. Finn brings us more fantastic lyrics on topics like religion and morality. I think it’s superb how Finn goes from singing about being friends with Jesus to the blues in Hawaii.
I do notice quite a bit of a difference in the musical styling between The Hold Steady and Craig Finn as a solo artist. The Hold Steady is a fairly straight forward Rock band and plays its songs with a driving force. Craig Finn as a solo artist on the other hand, at least on this album, is considerably more mellow. There are some tunes that are stripped down to just being Craig and a guitar. I can see why he would have held this material back from The Hold Steady as some of it is a lot more intimate and worthy of being sung by just one individual, not a band.
I will have to give the album a few more listens but I love it as of now and I would heartily recommend it as a buy or at the very least a borrow. The good news is that you can find the album on Spotify so you can hear it before making a decision to buy or not.