Album Reviews,  Music

Dave Ernst Comes Out Swinging With “Hickory Switch”

Louisville singer/songwriter Dave Ernst’s debut album ‘Hickory Switch’ is the culmination of nearly 30 years in music and a tribute to his country and rock roots. The album is a blend of his own well-crafted, well-thought songs along with a nod to Todd Snider (Rocket Fuel), and an acoustic cover of the R.E.M. tune Driver 8, make ‘Hickory Switch’ the kind of album you can put on and let it play. Over and over again.

While the album is technically Dave Ernst’s debut, it has been a long time in the making. It’s the distillation of thousands of experiences into 30 minutes of rocking good music. This isn’t an album that a teenager could write. There is a lot of life in these songs. Just one track in and the listener knows well, that this songwriter has lived these songs. That is the secret sauce of this release. Believability and authenticity that are thrown around a lot these days, but ‘Hickory Switch’ practices what it preaches.

I remember Dave from my days in Richmond when he played with the band Swifty. Dave has been a staple in the regional music scene since the 90’s when he played with Big Wheel and Starbilly. He has played countless gigs and this album is a tribute to his spirit, determination and sheer love of music. The authenticity I spoke of, comes from living life and growing as an artist.

For me, the album has all the key ingredients I’m looking for; great guitar work, a rhythm that forces your foot to tap and lyrics that tell relatable stories of experiences lived and not those just imagined. Ernst band is a crew of seasoned pros known as The Early Favorites. Tunes like “Wreckin’ Just Fine”, “Superstar” and “Tailfin” remind of my days as a teen in the early 90’s listening to the Georgia Satellites and Steve Earl cruising on the backroads of West Kentucky, having way more fun that should be allowed. When Ernst sings the lyric, “You’re too busy covering trails to make one”, in “Superstar”, I’ll just say that some very specific people in my life come to mind.

Ernst & Company slow it down on one of my favorite tracks from ‘Hickory Switch’ in “Pallbearer.” Ernst’s heartfelt lyrics are undeniable and the longing guitar backing him make the song haunting, sad and beautiful all at the same time. If I had to say listen to this song first, “Pallbearer” would win that notation.

All of Ernst’s musical influences are on display. It’s easy to hear everything from 70’s country and rock to the alternative days of the 90’s and the bands that shaped his early adulthood. Even those the played in. This record is almost biographical in nature, and for me, that’s the selling point.

Ernst’s version of Snider’s song “Rocket Fuel” is a windows down and volume up sing-along jam. You know what I’m talking about. Summer time and the living is easy kinda tune. Another of my favorites, is his cover of the R.E.M. classic, “Driver 8.” Not just because Dave does such a great job at reimagining the song in his own style, but because it shows just how far and wide his influences range.

The album is now available on Louisville’s Eastwood Records. ‘Hickory Switch’ was produced by long-time friend and former bandmate Peter Searcy and it was mixed by former Wilco member Ken Coomer.