While perusing the music blogosphere, I find it difficult to conceptualize just how much music exists. Countless artists churn out thousands of songs a day, most of which struggle to find a pair of receptive ears. A shame, no doubt, as musicians like the sincere Carl Hauck deserve better venues than dusky college bars in central Illinois. But earnestness alone won’t win fans, which may make Hauck’s music more fitting for a smaller audience simply seeking a sense of approachable intimacy.
On his fourth album, Windjammer, Hauck offers above-average singer-songwriter fare, yet still displays a recurring paradox within the coffeehouse acoustic genre: deeply personal music that sounds entirely ubiquitous. The description that accompanied Hauck’s digital download explains that making Windjammer “transformed from a labor of love to a labor of necessity,” a claim that speaks to the significance of the album within the musician’s own life. Hauck does imbue the record with verve by adding occasional depth to the instrumentals (piano and strings) beyond the simple folksy sound of one man’s voice and his guitar. At the very least I appreciate Hauck’s expression of his love for music as something both secure and dynamic, but at no point was I either wowed or underwhelmed.
It takes a lot for a musician of Hauck’s ilk to capture an audience’s attention, and Windjammer failed to burrow itself into my own musical memory. Opening tracks “Martial Riesling” and “Windjammer” offer nimble and playful pacing and strong chorale hooks, but prove to be the only stirring songs on the album. As a solo artist pushing vocals front and center, Hauck’s poignant lyrics emerge sterile under a delivery sans variance in pitch or volume. Listening to singer-songwriters, I want to feel what the front man feels, to be sympathetic by virtue of vocal purity or imperfection. While soothing, Hauck’s voice lacks emotional resonance, and I’m afraid I couldn’t identify him in a lineup of other aspiring one-man acts. Perhaps I’m asking too much from Carl Hauck, but without more vocal character, I can’t say that I’d enthusiastically give Windjammer another spin.
-Scott Lensing, co-host of “6 Degrees of Jeff Mangum,” Sundays 4-6PM