Beating The Odds

Chicgoland’s Eric Lambert has distinguished himself over his career as one of the top flatpickers in the Midwest. A devotee of Clarence White and Tony Rice, Lambert creates bold, clear-voiced guitar solos that capture the spirit of his heroes without parroting them.

On his new CD, Beating The Odds, Lambert recruited some of the area’s top-shelf bluegrass artists, including mandolinist Don Stiernberg. The title cut is a nifty swing progression, enlivened by Stiernberg’s jazzy, sophisticated backup and wonderful chord melody solo.

Instrumentally, this is a strong CD with excellent work from the ensemble. Vocally, Lambert’s singing is hippie-folky, not bluegrass, and his delivery is a bit dry and off-note like Jerry Garcia from time to time, like his intro to “Found Out My Dady Was Wrong.” A bigger concern is his original lyric content.

Lambert writes openly and from the heart about social issues like racism, climate change, gun violence, domestic abuse, and more. These issues are certainly worthy and essential contemporary topics. His preachy lyrics, however, often fail to bring subtlety, poetry and nuance to the issues. That said, what*s here is fun and entertaining and likable in a light-hearted way, perfect for an informal, entertaining night of music.

Flatpickers and lovers of stellar picking, however, will truly love the times when Lambert lays down one of his crystal-clear Neo-traditional solos, like on “We Need To Learn To Love.” “Mother Earth” allows him to display a lovely Rice-inspired break. “Breakfast at George’s” is a glowing instrumental, fueled by Eric’s gorgeous guitar solo that’s decorated for the holidays with beautiful, bell-like notes. Really nice work here. And his other instrumental, “Pretty,” is just what the title suggests, a six-string lullaby sung by a master guitarist.

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