Grammy-award winning guitarist Eric Krasno (Soulive/Lettuce) has unveiled a tremendous solo offering in Blood From a Stone, a significant departure from the sound that fans have come to know over his nearly two decades making music. Released on his own Feel Music Group imprint, the new record finds Krasno exploring various blends of pop-song craftsmanship dipped in bluesy psychedelia, thundering drums, and an analog vibe that courses through its vintage veins. Most surprisingly, it is not Krasno’s legendary guitar prowess that takes center stage, but instead his voice; Krasno sings lead on nearly every song on the record, and the results are downright staggering.
As one-third of NYC jazz-hop legends Soulive, a founding member of funk behemoth Lettuce, an in-demand studio producer (Krasno has produced records for everyone from Aaron Neville to The London Souls to Nigel Hall), celebrated hip-hop producer (Fyre Dept. with Adam Deitch), and also logging time as touring bassist with Tedeschi Trucks Band, the soft-spoken guitarist has been in the game for what seems like forever. More recently, he has become a sought-after writer for a diverse and eclectic group of recording artists. After holing up in Portland, Maine with Dave Gutter (Rustic Overtones) for a long songwriting session, Kraz found himself penning material he soon imagined sung in his own voice.
“I’ve been writing songs with vocals for other people for a while. With these songs, we initially wrote them thinking others would sing them, so when I was in the studio with different artists, sometimes I’d introduce one of the tracks and they’d record it, but it wouldn’t necessarily work out. Eventually, I realized it was because I’d written these songs for myself,” said Krasno.
Ryan Zoidis (Lettuce’s Shady Horns, and also a member of Rustic Overtones) configured a minimalist assortment of vintage gear and set up a barn studio space, while Gutter and Krasno hammered out the material. Within a short time, a story arc of love, loss and redemption was developed, as both men were picking up the pieces at the end of relationships. The duo began to shape the vision and sound of the forthcoming album, a tight and calculated assortment of pop songs rich in lyric, melody, with sugary choruses and a strong emotional quotient. The sessions were initially intended to be demos, though it became apparent early on that this session was destined for Blood From a Stone.
Krasno: “The recording process was fun because we really thought we were just doing writing sessions. There was no pressure. We set up a studio where the Rustic Overtones [Gutter and Ryan Zoidis’ former band] are based up in Maine and brought in a bunch of gear. I contributed some guitars, amps and mics, while Ryan pieced together a tape machine and basically built a studio for this session. Chris St. Hilaire and Stu Mahan from The London Souls came up and helped out putting down the initial tracks. It was great because we were writing the songs and recording at the same time. The band would be putting down parts, while Dave was writing a bridge in the other room. It was like we were in a little song factory for those few days. We came out of that sessions with maybe a dozen songs and the tracks sounded killer. I have to say that Ryan Zoidis and Jon Roods, also in Rustic Overtones, did a great job recording everything. We used minimal gear, but it was done right and that is mostly what you hear on the record.”
It’s plain to hear from the opener (and first single) “Waiting On Your Love” that Kraz is serious about this singing business. Where he has been hiding this mojo is beyond me, as his confident swagger is light years beyond the rare glimpses of vocals we have heard from him over the years. Much like his emotive guitar playing, Krasno’s voice is a classy instrument wealthy in tone and conviction. The big and greasy first salvo harkens back to the colors and textures found on Lenny Kravitz’s masterful Circus, a record that itself marries the contemporary and vintage with style and grace. Throw in a tidbit of late-70’s fuzz-box guitar-rock, a smidgen of Tame Impala, and a healthy pour of the bluesman’s burden, and you have Blood From A Stone’s sonic DNA.
“Torture” is a blues lickin’ down-home stomp that owes a debt to ZZ Top. “Jezebel” is a lover’s lament, employing a tasty Rhodes groove, open high hats and ringing rides, syncopated bass and lyrical toms, all shuckin’ and jivin’ beneath an atypically choice Kraz axe-tone. “On the Rise” is the record’s second single; a mid-tempo rim-shot number with dreamy harps and a slithery bassline. On an album full of sensual feels, this track calls out to Voodoo-era D’Angelo’s Soulquarian squad. The story of rebirth and resolution is a perfect foil for the soothing, sexy energy that propels the song into new Krasno territory.
Similarly different, and defiantly declaring this new era is “Please Ya,” a vintage ballad that finds Kraz traversing gospel geography, navigating bluesy R&B with Muscle Shoals roots. “Natalie” is a driving, stomping rocker that display’s Krasno’s subtle troubadour grit; “Wicked This Way” is a slab of slow n’ dreamy pop, complete with huge vocal bridge and a tantalizing duet with Alecia Chakour. The other featured collaboration on Blood From A Stone is a departure from the record’s already established temperature, as Derek Trucks drops in on “Curse Lifter” and heats things up proper, dialing in a guitar duo thrill-ride on a jam that would undoubtedly make Duane Allman a proud man. “‘Curse Lifter’ is an homage to Santana, the Allman Brothers Band and some of the bands I grew up listening to,” Krasno said. “I’ve always loved guitar harmonies when they’re done the right way. After we recorded the rhythm tracks and listened back, I knew it would be great to have Derek Trucks play on it. We recorded at his studio and just mic’d up two amps in the live room and went for it.”
With Blood From a Stone, Eric Krasno has again reinvented himself, this time as a weathered, sensitive, imaginative bluesman; with a penchant for gospel-tinged R&B, lavender love songs dripping in psychedelic grooves, all delivered through a colorful palette of vintage tastes and tones. This is prodigious pop album, exceptionally executed by a cagey veteran, who has found a swagger within his voice that is clearly, just the tip of the iceberg. Kraz has opened up a new avenue for his seemingly limitless creative energies, and fans should be prepared to be spoiled rotten. Lookout for the Eric Krasno Band on tour, out for select dates supporting Blood From a Stone, including tonight’s hit at Brooklyn Bowl, celebrating the venerable nightspot’s 8th anniversary in style.