After logging nearly five years and 200,000 nautical miles, Merchant Marine Hank Erwin returned to terra firma in 2014, determined to get serious about pursuing his musical dreams. The singer-songwriter and guitarist had recorded his debut album, Million Miles, while still a seaman, but he finally decided driving through snowstorms en route to gigs was preferable to plowing through Great Lakes ice. Fate thought otherwise; by 2015, he’d lost both his relationship and his house, and gained a diagnosis: cancer — the disease that took all four of his grandparents and his father. The outlook seemed grim.
Fortunately, the Kentucky native has lots of friends, including some in Jerome, Arizona, who took him in and helped him get on his feet — which included playing his way back to emotional health after regaining his physical health. He even had a chance to replace another friend as lead guitarist in their pal’s Austin-based band, Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, but lost the gig when frontman Chris Porter decided to tour as a trio to cut costs. Not going on the tour very likely kept Erwin alive; Porter and bassist Mitchell Vandenburg were killed when their tour vehicle, stuck in a highway traffic jam in North Carolina, was rear-ended by a semi. The accident also severely injured drummer Adam Nurre.
On October 22nd, nearly five years to the day after that October 19, 2016, accident, Erwin is releasing his new recording, The Copper Album. He recorded it in late 2018 at Portside Sound in Sheffield, Alabama, Porter’s home state. The studio originally was known as Muscle Shoals Sound Studio B (not far from historic 3614 Jackson Highway, the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios). Erwin’s backing band consisted of Nurre on drums, former Drive-By Truckers and Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes member Shonna Turner on bass and Daniel Stoddard, of St. Paul & the Broken Bones, on pedal steel.
Today Glide is excited to premiere “Deal With The Devil,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. Erwin describes it as being “about desperation, religion, and poker. Poker will make you desperate, desperation will make you religious, religion will make you gamble.” Hitting with a wallop of guitar and drums that will bring a smile to fans of bands like Drive-By Truckers and Lucero, Erwin takes us down a dark road with soulfully haunting vocals and harmonies layered over a bluesy alt-country soundtrack. Raw and rocking, the song really takes off once the twang of the pedal steel guitar hits and the result feels like a gothic tale of someone taking a rough and tumble path in life.
Photo credit: Jan A. Bruso