Eric Gaffney will likely always be best known for his work with Sebadoh. That's not such a bad thing, though, as Sebadoh are partially responsible for an entire generation of songwriters who had no money and recorded on their 4-tracks and tape decks at home. Gaffney left Sebadoh in 1994 (right about when they went to shit, in my humble opinion) and resurfaced in 2000 with a wonderful collection of solo stuff on Old Gold Recordings called "Brilliant Concert Numbers." Earlier this year, his aptly named new band, Fields of Gaffney, self-released their debut, "Nature Walk." This album takes me back to an earlier time in my life where I didn't really have any real responsibilities and only worried about what silly song I'd record at midnight in my closet. This album showcases Gaffney's abilities as a songwriter. It's a sign that he's back and as good as ever.
The album opens with "Push It Up To Me," which has this Marvin Gaye feel to it that I can't quite explain. It's catchy and I feel like I should be walking in slow motion through a bowling alley in 1975 or something. I love the phased guitars, and I love the female backing vocals on the "You can do anything, do anything that you want" chorus. It's always ballsy to open an album with a cover track, if you ask me. Track 2, "Broke Up," is even better. There are hooks all over this song and the guitar sound and structure brings back all sorts of Sebadoh memories. This isn't spectacular, but it's just good, old, solid songwriting. Not that anyone should be doubting if Eric Gaffney knows how to write a song. I hate to continually bring up Sebadoh in this review, but the comparisons are inevitble. Sebadoh was a huge part of what got me into homerecording, and I give Eric Gaffney a lot of credit for that (and Jason Lowenstein. I was never a very big fan of Lou Barlow's trite emo crap).
"Wanna Be With You" is almost punk rock, and is a nice change of pace from the first three tracks. It's short, sweet, and jagged. It's chains being dragged down a gravel driveway sort of jagged, and it works. It's followed by my favorite song on the album, "Cold Weather." The highlight of this song is when Eric sings low on the chorus and is doubled by high pitched female vocals. Fantastic! The instrumental outro is nostalgic and wind swept; it's sitting on the porch on a cold November morning with your cup of coffee waiting for the morning paper to arrive. You're still in your pajamas and your robe, and your hair is mess. There is a sleepiness to this song that I love. I've always had a thing for songs that remind me of the morning, but I don't think it's an easy feeling to create.
The two other real highlights here are the Gaffney original, "Oblivous," and the excellent Daniel Johnston cover, "I Did Acid With Caroline." The former reminds me of a more mellow side of one of my all time favorite bands, Pie. It has a country-ish beat backing it and an underused circular structure. The only complaint with the song is that it's short (under 3 minutes); just as I'm really getting into it, it stops. I love the catchiness, though. It's followed by the Johnston cover, which is fantastic. This was always one of my favorite Daniel Johnston songs, and I really like hearing it as done by Eric Gaffney. It fits in seamlessly with the rest of the album.
My biggest complaint is the abundance of cover songs, 5 in all. I do really like two of them. The best songs on here are the Gaffney originals. He's a great songwriter and I feel it's sort of selling himself, and his fans, short to comprise almost half an album of other people's work. I'm a proponent of including a cover song or two, but I bought this album to hear Eric Gaffney's music, not his take on others. This is a minor complaint, however. Fields of Gaffney will become a household name in the years to come. They exhibit strong songwriting and have good energy. Eric says he's still writing songs as he always did, and you know what? That's a good thing for all 7/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)