Portland Press Herald
The first thing that grabs you is that rusty set of pipes. Sometimes it sounds like Eric Bettencourt just won a fistfight down by the riverbank and he’s hollering up his new territory. Other tunes convey an old soul opening up to confess a guarded secret. Whatever the story, you believe the guy. Cast in ragged candor, he’s got “it.”
After years of loading gear in ice-cold alleyways, and scrapping for gas to get on stages, the people are starting to get a feel for how special this kid is. Take the first splash, Fine Old World. The fact that Bettencourt has brought Janis Joplin's wheeze and howl along is secondary on the debut. Listen for the songcraft, EB channels his raw talent into music that doesn't come from a magic recipe book, it's organic and accessible to all.“Sweet Elise” sounds like the inside of a summer country cottage, simple and soulful. On “Uniform,” Bettencourt proves he’s mastered Beatles’ caliber writing to tell his layered tales.
The soul blossoms because it's built on a technician’s foundation. EB's got Slow Hand's touch on guitars, electric and acoustic, lead and rhythm. He can shine whenever he chooses, but with mature ears and instincts, he’ll often be first to pull back for the good of the project. Take a tune like the mischievous “Stonewalled” from The Giraffe Attack collection, where a bouncy jig verse gives way somehow to a tearjerker, gospel-chorus. This is pop music with 1960’s street-cred, and it’s only going to come easier for the songwriter as his gift is properly nurtured. He's already shared the stage with national acts and graced the iTunes front page as a songwriter to watch.
What occupies Bettencourt when he’s not ruling stages and turning heads around town? Well, he can’t seem to shake the music for even a moment. He runs an independent label, Shadow Shine Records, and maintains a fully equipped recording studio to support his talent roster and his own career. Bettencourt has recorded, produced, and performed as much as any other single force in town. The guy is a flowing fountain of life to the Portland music scene, but it’s getting to be time for the world to find out. Meanwhile, with tricks to spare, and his own growing brand, Bettencourt will just keep on, howling with that torn timbre to the moon, till someone figures it out.
Eric Bettencourt. Vocals Guitar
Band: drums, bass. Lineup varies.
Weightless Embrace (EP) - 05/2012
Secret Songs For Secret People - 11/2011
This Big House (EP)- 12/2009
The Giraffe Attack Collection - 09/2009
Fine Old World - 01/2009
have been getting regular airplay on WBLM, WCYY, WCLZ, and WMPG in Portland Maine as well as Maine Public Radio.
Secret Songs and Giraffe Attack Collection are now on Pandora
Also the entirety The Giraffe Attack Collection is included on the online stream for Citadels WBLM, one of the biggest rock stations in the North East.
EP adds good tunes to Bettencourt archive
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By MIKE OLCOTT January 14, 2010 The last time Eric Bettencourt was heard from, he was releasing ...By MIKE OLCOTT January 14, 2010
The last time Eric Bettencourt was heard from, he was releasing his fantastic, full-length sophomore CD, "The Giraffe Attack Collection." He is as prolific an artist as we've got in these parts, and his recording efforts yield songs that ooze confidence and bleed soul.
Ever active, Bettencourt recently released the EP, "This Big House," with plans to put the title track on the new film "Come to Know" from the Maine Film Collaborative.
It's a simple, three-song effort that barely warrants a review, except that Bettencourt's work may someday be regarded as the time capsule "sound" of Portland during this stretch of years. He has reached a level of trust with his fans where any release is worthwhile.
"Liza Jane" gets imaginary boots stomping immediately; this tune should be played loud in a room with dusty floorboards. Though it's a traditional number, there's nothing old-fashioned about it, and it has Bettencourt's paw prints all over it.
With an urgent banjo-vs.-rock-guitar verse dynamic, it's rough-and-tumble around the edges, with a tootsie-roll pop center when the chorus drops.
This is a tension-release structure that the "Giraffe Attack" songwriter does as well, and as often, as anyone. At 2 minutes, 31 seconds, it's here and gone, but not before it fades out with some backwards banjo spicing the outro.
"My Lady Tuesday" mercilessly conjures the long light of a New England July day. With furious finger-picking and a great electric bass sidekick, the artist is in his comfort zone with this original instrumental.
The best part of the EP? That would be Bettencourt's joyous hands-on percussion that hits midway through this tune. He's just bopping his head, rapping out rhythms on the nearest drum possible – in this case, his knees. It fits naturally with the rest of the arrangement – a snare or djembe would be overpowering, but knee-drums surely beget more knee-drums, invoking listeners to keep up with their own bodily rhythms.
It's strange then, that the title track is a bit of a non-starter. It's an Allman Brothers haunted-house ballad, beautifully rendered with the help of talented friends such as Amanda Gervasi of Gypsy Tailwind.
But the progression plods along predictably, a three-chord yawn, and nothing of any transcendence occurs until the inevitable soaring guitar/ghostly reverb choir denouement. A saucy bridge, a "Layla"-like tempo shift, or anything constituting a risk would have carried this tune a lot further.
Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.
EP review The Boston Noise
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This single gives an offering of what’s to come from Eric Bettencourt’s upcoming release, The Giraff...This single gives an offering of what’s to come from Eric Bettencourt’s upcoming release, The Giraffe Attack Collection with a couple of bonus tracks that didn’t make the cut. The “single” tracks are poppy with little flashes of southern rock and blues. Bettencourt sounds a lot like Shannon Hoon, giving his band’s sound an obvious Blind Melon tinge, but the music is more intricate, sophisticated, and fun. If the rest of this album is as good as these two songs, then we are in for a treat. The “bonus” tracks are the real prize in this Cracker Jack box, and this is what they left off the album! “Lighthouse” is a trippy epic that could have been on McCartney’s Ram, if Shannon Hoon were old enough—and alive enough—to have sung on it. (Joel Simches)
Giraffe Attack Collection Review
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Of course, you may just want to rock out this weekend, and for that, Eric Bettencourt's got you cove...Of course, you may just want to rock out this weekend, and for that, Eric Bettencourt's got you covered. Sure, you pegged him as folkie after Fine Old World, but he's been working on material with his old band, Giraffe Attack, for a few years now, and this stuff is decidedly more full-bodied, as evidenced by The Giraffe Attack Collection. He draws liberally from the classic rock masters - the Beatles, Clapton, a little Leon Redbone; I'd call the open to "What Works" a "Meg White" homage - but keeps things particularly robust, with multiple guitars, piano, banjo, trumpet, lots of backing vocals, continuing his reputation as someone who really knows how to use the studio.
As with Fine Old World, Bettencourt seems concerned with emphasizing the "album" quality of this album, tying things together with a central question: "Do you believe you can outdo perfection?/Do you believe you can outdo your God?" But this is an album that hangs together by virtue of its aesthetic. Like the pairing of the guitar riff and trumpet solo in "Empty Sidewalks," the banjo that tears through the back of "Miss Miserable," or the "la, la, la" backing in the Munsters-esque "Stonewalled" (right before it opens into the best chorus of the album), Bettencourt's arrangements and songwriting turns are consistently interesting and indicative of a curious mind.
There's nothing by the book here. If it feels like Bettencourt is everywhere lately, it's because he is, and he should maybe turn down a few gigs here and there to avoid being overexposed, but there's a reason Rustic Overtones pegged him to sit in for Ray LaMontagne's parts recently. He's an evolving talent you'd be wise to watch.
It's a Fine Old World
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* 2009 * Inside Maine Kathleen Fleury Ray LaMontagne might be Maine’s most famous singer/song...
* Inside Maine
Ray LaMontagne might be Maine’s most famous singer/songwriter right now, but the state has a slew of young artists poised for future fame. One of the most promising is Portland resident Eric Bettencourt, a member of the popular local trio Giraffe Attack. Fine Old World (Shadow Shine Records, www.eric-bettencourt.com, $9.99) is Bettencourt’s widely praised debut album. Featuring mostly original tracks and one rare LaMontagne cover, Fine Old World meanders through a range of styles and sounds, a journey punctuated by the title track performed in three parts. Bettencourt’s raspy voice enchants listeners on softer songs such as “Sweet Elise” and exudes personality on the more forceful ones like “Uniform.” From bluesy rock to folksy funk, the styles on this debut album demonstrate Bettencourt’s varied influences — and his deserved place as a rising star in Maine’s music scene.
No Sopohmore Jinx For Bettencourt
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Leave it to Portland firecracker Eric Bettencourt to lead off his second official release, "The Gira...Leave it to Portland firecracker Eric Bettencourt to lead off his second official release, "The Giraffe Attack Collection," with a Freddie Mercury-worthy tune about outdoing, or not outdoing, your god.
Buzz has been building on the songwriting phenom ever since he dropped his sugar-plum debut, "Fine Old World," back in January. It's not uncommon for an overzealous strong starter to fall into the bad sophomore slump, but Bettencourt seems too well prepared to suffer the obvious misstep. Truth be told, he has earned the pop swagger that drives this record. It likely won't be long before Bettencourt moves on from the venerable Old Port circuit to play the houses of blues that lie ahead.
It's not the ever-reliable backwoods rasp on Bettencourt's pipes that makes this effort stand out. Nor is it the genuine sense of fun that, from the sounds of it, these able musicians are having together. It's actually the way Bettencourt makes writing great songs seem really easy.
Take the effortless, bountiful hooks on "Empty Sidewalks." A breezy Allman-Brothers-in-the-clouds verse opens up in a fist-pumping reggae chorus. These sure-handed decisions are the mark of an artist supremely comfortable in his own skin.
On "The Fear," Bettencourt lets his inner Janis Joplin run all over backbeat country soul to wickedly catchy effect. Drawing from two clear influences, Ray LaMontagne and Van Morrison, the band offers a sweetly swaying backporch shuffle on "Fell Into Place." In other words, feel free to put the feet up and find something to sip. The music does all the work for you – songcraft as it was originally intended.
Oddly, it's the single "Two Wine Glasses" that turns out to be the weak point of the album. An obvious storyline (wine + just the two of us = intrigue) powering a radio-ready repetitive riff comes up a bit flat, as if the group forgot about the looseness that made the rest of the session click.
It should also be noted that Bettencourt is a professional about his work. He has cultivated a following worthy of the imminent "Next Step" simply by keeping his nose to the grindstone. While the plight of a young musician is surely a harrowing one in these days and times, Bettencourt has protected himself from an uncertain future the best way he knows how – by writing irresistible, powerhouse records.
Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.
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William Earl On Portland-based Eric Bettencourt's great debut disc "Fine Old World," the singer/g...William Earl
On Portland-based Eric Bettencourt's great debut disc "Fine Old World," the singer/guitarist mines through dozens of influences to develop the perfect sound. Perhaps it is easy to be hypnotized by Bettencourt's endearing joyousness, but it is not a stretch to call this album brilliant.
Opener "Fine Old World Pt. 1," sounds like a frolic through a jam pop iPod: shades of David Gray's electronic samples, Phish's songwriting and Dave Matthews-style hippie lyricism pepper this tale of being unable to "run from the people that we are."
Bettencourt certainly knows how to express himself, owning a sandpapered voice which recalls Blind Melon's tragically hip frontman Shannon Hoon. While lesser singers would not be able to wrangle such a distinctly ragged tone, Bettencourt nails the harmonies he explores.
Of course, this vocal strength could result from melodies which evoke familiarity while still being creative. Disc standout "Delaney" is so upbeat that believers will begin to sing along even before they know all of the words. Despite its pop hook, Bettencourt also works many complex elements into the song: breezy runs, a hyper-melodic bass line and a tricky transition from featherweight verse to meaty refrain.
Musical highlights hit from every direction through this album. With heavy keys, horns and politically-charged lyrics, the bouncy "Uniform" is a hair away from Rustic Overtones. Great vocal work puts punch into "The Plan," inventive guitars carry "Sweet Elise," and wisps of piano waltz through "Just Walk Away."
Surprisingly, the album's biggest throwaway is the Ray LaMontagne-penned, "I Wish I Could Change Your Mind." Coming off as merely a half-assed blues attempt (albeit with a great guitar solo), it is as bizarre to have a skeletal song in the middle of such an ambitious record as it is to not be impressed with LaMontagne's work. Yet within "Fine Old World's" context, this anomaly makes more sense when understanding that Bettencourt, who plays the majority of the non-percussive instruments on the LP, is best when he has total control.
Honestly, there are too many superlatives which should be pegged to this great piece of work than could be printed in such a short review (but you can hear for yourself at the CD release party on Jan. 10 at the Big Easy). Just go buy it - it's cheaper than a movie and lasts a whole lot longer. Ultimately, it would be best to leave Bettencourt with a piece of his own advice from the appropriately-named final track, "It's Over" - "Don't stop growing/You have come so far."
Maine native Bill Earl is a musician and a music writer. He's currently living in Boston but has his ears on Maine-made music.
Can play most any song from any album. Always work some new material into the sets. Can bring band or pl;ay solo.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.