Friday, I finally finished packing up my office for the movers and painters. (Working in the fumes, in an unventilated space, has been a real pleasure since then, let me tell you.) To celebrate the end of the bubble-wrapping, I caught one of my favorite folk singers, Erik Balkey, at one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall venues, the Tin Angel. Balkey is an incredible songwriter; every time I see him, I’m amazed at the number of new, quality songs he’s written.
Balkey strikes me as, well, sensitive. And I don’t mean that pejoratively. He feels things, or, at least, he’s able to write persuasively about feelings—and that’s no easy task. Here, for instance, are a few lines from “Someone To Call,” a song (written, it seems, from the perspective of a rough-something character) about finding enough love to last through the days of a life:
I was a loner, a leaver, an ugly mistreater.
Whoever I knew once had left me for dead.
She came in and gave me a reason for living
and someone to call before I go to bed
. . .
There’s someone to call for;
I’m not alone no more.
Somebody’s with me instead,
and somebody’s waiting,
someone I believe in.
There’s someone to call before I go to bed.
Balkey has a soft, quiet delivery. He probably wishes that he had more vocal range (who doesn’t?), but his voice is a good match for his earnest lyrics. When I’ve seen Balkey in concert, I’ve always left feeling like I’ve seen something real—not just heard a few songs.
There’s something else I should say about Balkey. It’s a confession, I guess. I have an enormous crush on him. He’s handsome—and in precisely the way that works for me. He’s muscular and goateed, and he has a shaved head. Does that color the way I hear him? At some level, it must. But, at the same time, I’m pretty sure you can trust my recommendation. I’m not entirely shallow, after all. And I’m pretty certain that if you like good folk music, you’ll like Erik Balkey.
By the way, I was also taken with the opening act at the Tin Angel, Carsie Blanton. She’s young, and sometimes—but only sometimes—that showed in her lyrics. What was really impressive to me was her voice. It’s youthful, but it’s full, powerful, and soulful. When she finished her set, Tin Angel patrons lined up to buy her CD. And there’s no higher compliment than that for an opening act.