I first heard Eric perform at a summer music festival some time around 2010. His entire band “The Northern Skies” were fantastic. They were a talented mix of aggressive Michigan folk musicians (including Nicholas Cole-Klaes, currently bassist and music director of Weekend Comeback).
One particular song, “Michigan” really hit me. I had written and released an entire album called Home trying to capture elements of my homesickness for Michigan when I lived in Texas, as well as the joy of returning, and the bittersweet emotions of having to leave friends behind to come back home. But with one profoundly simple sentence, “And I miss you. I miss Michigan,” Eric better accomplished what I tried too hard to say. I was impressed. And jealous.
"Again captured a certain romanticism about my home state."
When they recorded part of their second album Thick As Thieves at Henry Ford Studio, I had an early look at some of their new material, and once again two of Eric’s songs jumped out at me: The Northern Islander and First Paved Street, two songs that again captured a certain romanticism about my home state.
When I decided to start working on a few covers of other Michigan artists, Eric was an obvious choice. But what song to record? “Michigan” sounded so personal and intimate on the original recording that I felt it best to remain as is, and the original arrangement to “The Northern Islander,”—with its soaring fiddle part and half-time sections—was also too perfect to try to approach it differently. With “First Paved Street” I felt that by replacing the laid back guitar with ukulele, and the bluesy harmonica solo with a collage of electric slide guitar, mandolin, and electric 12-string, I could easily give a stamp of my own influences. (Notably for this song, solo George Harrison.)
Though The Northern Skies have since broken up, Eric is still an active songwriter and solo artist here in Michigan. His 2020 release The Mystery Emporium and the rest of his discography can found at his website ericengblade.com. He also teaches music out of the Ada Conservatory near Grand Rapids.
If you enjoy my rendition of First Paved Street, please be sure to check out the rest of Eric’s music and help us local independent artists support each other!