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Call It a Comeback – Eric Gales: Friday, July 1, 7 p.m., Bandshell PDF Print E-mail
Music - Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:01

Eric Gales

You wouldn’t know it from his discography, but 2010’s Relentless marked a comeback for the blues-rock guitarist/singer/songwriter Eric Gales. The Story of My Life was released in April 2008, and its follow-up came this past July – a pretty standard interval in the music business.

But there’s a hint of his troubles on Relentless’ lead track, “Bad Lawbreaker,” on which he sings: “I’m a bad lawbreaker / Three strikes ain’t enough for me.”

In between those two albums, Gales served 21 months of a three-year sentence for violating the probation he received in 2006 for drug and gun charges. “I was smoking weed on the road and I didn’t want to risk them telling me to come home in the middle of the tour” because of a dirty urine sample, he said in a recent phone interview. “I just said to myself, ‘I’ll deal with it when I get home.’” So he turned himself in after the tour and was sent to prison. (He couldn’t play a guitar for his first six months of incarceration but – because of the intervention of a warden who knew who he was – eventually led a prison band.)

Gales was released in March 2010, but “I got arrested again within a month,” he said. “I got caught up on Beale Street, man. I had some cocaine and some Xanax pills on me and wound up going to jail again. ... After that I made a decision that it wasn’t conducive for me to stay any longer in Memphis, Tennessee. ... I knew too many of the wrong people, and too many of the wrong people knew me.”

If “Bad Lawbreaker” isn’t a big enough hint, other songs on Relentless offer a pretty clear picture of Gales’ problems with drugs and bad influences. On “Draggin’ Me Down,” he sings: “The people on the street / They heard I’m back in town / They come from everywhere / Out from the underground.” And “Block the Sun” can be read as an unvarnished self-portrait: “You sit all alone / Talk on a dead telephone / You can hide but you can’t run / ’Cause you, you block out the sun.”

That kind of self-awareness led to a change of scenery. “I pretty much went blindfolded and pointed on the map, and Minnesota was where I came to,” Gales said.

He finished rehab in November and a few days later started a European tour. “That pretty much was where my new life began,” he said. “I’ve been able to be more focused in my life than I’ve ever been.”

He promised that his renewed focus will be clear when he performs Friday at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival – “I’m coming with a vengeance” – and it’s evident in his upcoming release schedule, too. He said a new album, Transformation, is due in August, and he’ll follow that with a live DVD early next year. Gales said that he’s now “doing it like I’m supposed to be doing it. ... All of this stuff has been waiting on me. It’s been me that’s been the holdup.”

Gales was a prodigy who picked up the guitar – playing left-handed on an upside-down right-handed guitar – at age four. (He’s naturally right-handed and writes right-handed.) He was signed by Elektra when he was 15, releasing The Eric Gales Band in 1991 – at age 16.

His race and upside-down technique led to inevitable comparisons to Hendrix, but critics saw a deeper connection. Reviewing Gales’ debut, Entertainment Weekly wrote: “Although he can play with speed and flash ... , what’s more amazing is that anyone so young has mastered something artfully done by Jimi Hendrix and countless gospel stars – establishing a sense of deep-seated frustration and then unerringly breaking free with sheer musical power.”

Gales said his early success wasn’t responsible for his drug problems; those came with the layoff following 1993’s Picture of a Thousand Faces: “That’s what led me into being intrigued with the street life and getting into trouble.”

Although Gales said he was in a “dark, deep haze ... drug-wise,” that wasn’t evident in his recordings. While he only released one album between Picture ... and 2006’s Crystal Vision, he earned good reviews even in his drug-using years. “Featuring the guitarist’s trademark blend of traditional blues and soulful, Memphis-flavored, psychedelic-tinged blues rock,” About.com wrote of 2008 release, “The Story Of My Life offers up a wealth of red-hot guitar play that will singe the ear hair right off your head.”

While Jimi is obviously one of Gales’ heroes – he has played on several Experience Hendrix tribute tours – he cited as more-direct influences Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Eric Johnson, Doyle Bramhall, and Derek Trucks. “I’m not a clone, an imitation, or nothing like that,” he said. “I’m me. ... I’ve definitely got my own thing going on.”

And he said that he’s on a mission: “It’s just a blessing honestly to still be here. ... I think the reason that God hasn’t chosen to take me out is because he’s still got something planned for me today.”

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WE PRAY FOR YOU AND MISS YOU MY OLD FRIEND & HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON
written by BILL BRANDT, April 03, 2012
HI ERIC, IT'S YOUR BIGGEST FAN IN COLORADO AND I HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON. I USED TO WALK WITH A LIMP BUT NOW I AM IN A WHEELCHAIR. I WAS WITH MY GIRLFRIEND, SHARON THE NIGHT YOUR MOM PASSED AWAY. MY MOM RECENTLY PASSED AWAY AND IT HURTS UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE CAN.

I KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS FOR YOU AND I AM SO PROUD OF YOU FOR GETTING THROUGH THOSE HARD TIMES AND I THINK THE MOVE WAS A GREAT IDEA. I ALSO WENT THROUGH THE SAME THING AND DID TIME AND IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO SEE THE LIGHT. I STILL HAVE THE SAME # it's:303 545-5940 or 303 242-2185 and would love to see you again. Also, my Mom, like your's is looking down and they are both proud that we are clean and sober. You are my favorite guitar player in the world and i have every CD you've put out, but "Thats What I Am" is my favorite Every person that I have played it for went straight to the CD store.

I hope you call me because I would like to see if you could do the annual Colorado Blues Society show. I'll see what it pays, but Keb Mo did it about 6 or 7 years ago.

Moreover, I would just like to sit down and visit with you.

Hope to see you on the Hendrix tour next year, it wasn't the same without you.

Your Friend,

Bill

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