Eric Gales may be one of the blackest musicians in America ever to win a major label contract, which he promptly lost. This left-handed, Memphis-bred and based motherfucker outhendrixes Hendrix by playing his guitar upside down
--not strung lefty, but upside down
. Seeing him contort his fingers into mirror-image chord shapes causes phantom pain in even the most able of guitarists' knuckles. I once unwittingly saw Gales open up for Indigenous at the Paradise, and the sickness of his playing (then combined with headliner Mato Nanji's onslaught) left me speechless for hours.
Gales was hailed as a blues prodigy and recorded a few albums as a teenager in the 90s. In 2001, MCA released THAT's WHAT I AM, a solo album whose message fell on deaf, racist, and/or scared ears. Once Gales's MCA contract magically disappeared, so did money for national tours. I bought his CD the day after the show and then never found anything post-2001 on him anywhere, neither in the real world nor on the internet. He never had a website to begin with, and the content on his MCA Records page gradually disappeared. Today, only two publicity photos, his name, and a bunch of blank text boxes exist there
In a sea of shitty emo and high school bands, Gales resurfaces on MySpace
! As of this writing, he has nearly 1600 "friends" and a new album out on the Shrapnel label
. No other southern black dude could pull off a combination of Memphis blues soloing driven by Zepellin-quality metal, plus Hendrix's far-out influences and what are often dark, cautious lyrics written in Gales's own southern dialect.
Obviously there is no room for an angry, humongously talented, instrument-playing black man who can play an instrument in America--at least no room for one who refuses to smile for publicity photos. I only hope that Gales's career continues to fund itself and that I'll have an opportunity to see him perform again.
Until then, I'll have to order his new CRYSTAL VISION and let you know what I think.