Local singer/songwriter Eric Diedrichs practically willed himself to become the masterful craftsman he has become, throwing himself into music full-bore without a "safety school" to fall back on. When I first did a proper interview with Diedrichs in the mid-'90s, when his band The Simpletons were the hottest Power Pop band in town, I vividly recall being awed by his commitment and confidence as he told me how he dedicated himself to being a performer/artist/writer, practicing for hours just so he could sing and play guitar at the same time. Diedrichs is still completely entrenched in music, touring extensively with popular local band Moth and serving as a mentor to oodles of aspiring singer/songwriters with his long-running "Songwriter Night" showcase (now every Tuesday at Downtown's Poison Room).
Diedrichs created Cari Clara as an alter ego after the Simpletons dissolved at the turn of the century, using it as an exercise in home recording and songwriting. Cari Clara has evolved into something bigger and better, his recording skills growing exponentially, moving from lo-fi to something more full-bodied and on par with big studio recordings. He also began working with a big live band, which seems to have given his sonic approach a fuller, less shadowy vibe.
Given all of this, it should come as no surprise that Cari Clara's new release, the EP You Better Run — a sort of stop-gap release as Diedrichs prepares a full-length — is as rich and enthralling as most artists' much-labored-over long players.
With huge beats and engulfing yet somehow subtle layers of guitars, synths and vocals, You Better Run retains the atmospheric quality that has made his recordings hover in a dream-like state. The vocal layering is especially effective, as Diedrichs gives his always hooky-to-the-core melodies even more attack. Instead of creeping into your mind like some of Diedrichs' early Cari Clara recordings, these tracks elbow their into the cerebellum with insistency.
Opening cut "Our Famed Escape" is an immediate highlight, with its twinkling twilight aura. It feels like one of those great old Roy Orbison songs, elegantly moving with a magical, romantic grace. "The Bright Lights" floats on a bed of string swells, dirty, angled guitar and simple, pulsating drum-machine rhythms, while the tracks "Hold.Hope." and the title cut sound a bit like BritPop sensations Muse minus the over-the-top theatrics.
Diedrichs and his band celebrate the release of the EP Friday at the Madison Theater in Covington. Local heroes (with national fan bases) 500 Miles to Memphis and Ellison also perform. (myspace.com/cariclara)
More Local Notes
· Two new local bands are popping their live-show cherry this Saturday in Northside. At the Northside Tavern, Lee Gallagher — the great songwriter/frontman from such local bands as Crazy Chester, greatmodern and Mr. Scarlet's Plume — brings his new band, The Way Downs, to the stage for the first time. Gallagher says the new group is heavier than anything he's done in the past. Keep an eye out for recordings from the band; they'll be heading to Ultrasuede Studios to lay down tracks in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, at The Gypsy Hut, some of the former members of late trippy Rock crew Get Sweaty perform as Make It Nasty. The show was put together as a homecoming gig for bassist Ian Thomas, whose relocation to New Hampshire in February led to the group's dissolution. Thomas was going to be in town for the weekend, so the other members booked a gig during which they plan to play old Get Sweaty and Dead Flowers (the name of the band before they got sweaty) songs, as well as fresher material they were working on at the time of their split and even a few brand new songs.
· Great local Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Jon Justice has a new EP out. Friday at Mansion Hill Tavern in Newport, he and his group throw down in the EP's honor for a show that also features II Juicy and Them Bones. (jonjustice.com)
· Several bands are joining together in the name of mental health research this Friday at the Mad Hatter in Covington. The show — featuring The Frankl Project, Alone at 3 AM, Black Tie Bombers and Ryan's Hope — is dubbed "Bozfest" in honor of local man Kellen "Boz" Bischoff, who has struggled with mental disorders. All proceeds are being donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Kellen "Box" Bischoff Study for Mental Illness. (myspace.com/bozfest2007)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com