Black Music Matters Festival

Eric Heatherly

Swimming In Champagne – 2000 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

CDs by Eric Heatherly

Discovered playing the famed Tootsie's Lounge in Nashville, Eric Heatherly, a 29-year-old Chattanooga Tenn. native, sounds like a barroom veteran tamed by his record label for the country airwaves. From the updated Fifties-style guitar licks of "Someone Else's Cadillac, to the insistent groove powering, "I Just Break 'Em," Heatherly displays the kind of hucksterism that undoubtedly got him through many a long night in the clubs.

Elsewhere, his lyrical gifts turn awkward and gimmicky, from the Saddam Hussein name-checking in "Didn't Mean A Thing" to the groaner of a closer, "She's So Hot," but the overall tone and playfulness of his songs makes up for those minor flaws. The barroom anthems are tempered by the beautiful title ballad and the first single, a reworking of the Statler Brothers classic, "Flowers On The Wall," that is different enough to succeed in the face of the original.

Whether Heatherly himself is different enough to succeed, only time - and a few more hits - will tell.