By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
"Belgian Rain," "Like A Wave" and soulful ballad "Come With Me" mark the return of Hinkle's Texas singer-songwriter side, dormant since his eponymous 2003 CD. But the most "Texan" sounding item here might just be de Smul's closing ballad, "Still On My Mind."
On First Crossing, they demonstrate how new approaches and recombinations of elements can revitalize classic styles, with inspiration flowing from some unexpected sources. For the Eagle Audio sessions, Hinkle says, "I got out the Marshall stack and every effect that I had, including this Hughes & Kettner organ simulator thing. I was using my Telecaster and Strat and playing this stuff loud, with distortion. It didn't even strike me until we were doing the mixdown that this was [the result of] all those years of listening to Neil Young."
The disc's eclecticism might be problematic to listeners of a purist bent, but Hinkle is unconcerned.
"Our friend Conrad [de Muelenaere], who helped us out with logistics, told me, 'I've listened to your last few CDs, and it seems like you're all over the place. You don't know where you're coming from,'" he says. "And I told him, 'If you're from Texas, and you're going to be a musician, you'd better know country, and you'd better know blues, and if you know country, you're going to have some inkling of Western swing, and that's going to plug you straight into jazz.'
"When I go into a gig, people are coming with me, and I'm taking them on a trip to all the places I've been: East Coast, West Coast, New Orleans, over to Europe. That's what music is. I'm thoroughly comfortable with the blues, but Muddy Waters is dead. Robert Johnson's dead ... maybe. This is contemporary. This is our turn to tell the story."