Eric Hutchinson/Cutting Room NYC

Aquarian Weekly 11/22/06

ERIC HUTCHINSON THE CUTTING ROOM NYC 10/17/06

There are rare occasions in a journalist’s existence when he/she stumbles on something that appears, at first glance, to be a sure thing. It happens once in a great while covering sports, more infrequently in politics, and when it comes to music, there is the slimmest of possibilities you will sit down in a club or a theater and someone will come on and hit you smack in the face and you just know they’ve got it, and that whatever “it” is will take them somewhere far away from the place. This happened to me with a 25 year-old lily-white soul singer/songwriter called Eric Hutchinson.

Eric HutchinsonI caught Hutchinson’s act – jumping back and forth between piano and guitar, alone with nothing but his incredibly elastic voice and biting wit – a few months back at Town Hall, where he opened for Joe Jackson, and quite frankly, with all due respect to Joe, put on a better show. The kid was funny, bright, a talented musician, and an engaging songwriter with a stage presence as smooth as the proverbial baby’s ass.

Wanting to see him headline and meet up, I trudged down to the Cutting Room in Chelsea for a chat and then watched as Hutchinson commanded the stage in the back room, regaling the packed house with his more established material (featured on his live debut CD, “Before I Sold Out”) and a new batch of startlingly catchy songs that display a distinctive maturing of his craft.

Hutchinson is a major talent with nary a trace of pretension in him. “Seriously, thanks for coming out in the rain tonight,” he told the rapt audience. “I’m not sure I would have.” Then he proceeded to make up a song about braving the elements and missing the Mets play-off game to hang out at the club. The crowd clapped and sang along, as if they had heard it hundreds of times before.

And that’s the visceral beauty of a Hutchinson tune. It’s as if you’ve heard it before – bluesy and soulful, a be-bop chugging rhythm-machine that twists metaphor with symbolism wrapped around tasty hooks and eminently humable melodies. Regardless of subject matter – terrible break-ups, torrid affairs, dire environmental warnings, or uplifting mantras – it begs you to tap a foot and sing along.

Mostly, it is a treat to watch Hutchinson tie it all together. Everything that happens on and off the stage is part of the gig – at one point a young woman snapped a picture of him, for which Hutchinson struck a rock and roll pose and then incorporated the moment into the song he was beginning to butcher due to the interruption. Once again, the audience loved it.

Why not? Eric Hutchinson took them far away from the place.

It happens once in a great while.

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