I still remember distinctly the first time I saw Craig Finn perform, with his band Lifter Puller, although many lesser shows have blurred in my memory since then. It must have been in 2000, after their record “Fiestas and Fiascos” came out. They played in the dirtiest, diviest club I have ever been to in Los Angeles (not surpassed yet), the wonderful and infamous Al’s Bar. The performance was mind-blowing, to say the least, and the gritty atmosphere only enhanced the feeling that we were discovering something truly and incredibly awesome. As I recall it, there wasn’t even a stage at Al’s, the bands just played in a corner of the bar. Craig Finn has a passionate performance style all his own and stories that will sear your soul. Combined with the indie punk of a Minneapolis band, it was powerful and irresistable. Shortly after that performance, Craig moved to NYC and formed The Hold Steady, and I’ve seen some mind-blowing performances by that band as well, in much nicer venues. Now its time for his solo release. This album is not for punk fans, or indie rock fans, or alt-country fans, although it has a little of all those genres in it. This album is for Craig Finn fans. Way slower, and vastly stripped down from any of his band projects, his gift for storytelling shines through just like his performance did that night in 2000 from underneath the grime of Al’s Bar. It doesn’t really sound like most singer-songwriter albums, or any alt-country album, it just sounds like Craig Finn. And that’s A-OK in my book.
P.S. IF the title of this album is a reference to the motto “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose”, written by Peter Berg for the best show ever on television, Friday Night Lights, then Craig Finn moves up from genius to über-genius in my world view.