Thunder & the Plains
Eric Straumanis is a guitarist/songwriter hailing originally from Iowa City, Iowa. Thunder and the Plains was released on the Iowa City based Trailer Records in 2001. The album features 11 songs that fall into the Americana/Roots Rock category with nods to the E Street Band and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In the past few years Eric has primarily been a hired gun on guitar and bass playing with midwest based songwriters including David Zollo, Kelly Pardekooper and Matthew Grimm and the Red Smear. As a sideman, Eric has toured extensively in the U.S. and has twice toured throughout Germany and Holland. Recently Eric and his family have relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado where he continues to write and perform. REVIEWS Born in Grand Forks, ND, and raised in Tipton, IA, Eric came honestly by his to-the-bone familiarity with towns so small you can see right through 'em, where every girl you meet has already dated someone you know, and where the only thing to do most nights is re-trace the county's gravel roads with the stereo blasting and a cooler full of brewskis. He grew up under the influence of the 'Usual Suspects' of rock'n'roll (Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Young, Springsteen) and hard-scrabble country (Hank Sr., Johnny Cash, Waylon and Willie), and he's mined all of them and more while serving well-rounded apprenticeships en route to fronting his own band. Since 1994, Straumanis has explored ragged, minimalist blues with The Roughhousers, alt-country with Tom Jessen's Dimestore Outfit, alt-rock/power-pop with The Dick Prall Band, and backporch-styled guitar pulls with The Bean Angels and Firewood Revival. Even now, he continues to share the tag-team guitar slot in Dave Zollo & The Body Electric with Bo Ramsey, and can still be caught moonlighting occasionally with roots-maven Kevin Gordon. The Douglas Leaders (named after a defunct manufacturer of, er, utilitarian, flushable porcelain sculptures) underpin Eric's intensely personal-yet still universal-tales. Having worked together for almost 8 years now (with Big Daddy Sugarsnake and Firewood Revival in addition to the Leaders), guitarist/organist Andrew Brockman, drummer Pat Lake and bassist Blane Anderson slap emotionally-charged giddy-up on Straumanis' rambles with crisp, muscular economy. Bo Ramsey (who's worked as guitarist and/or producer with such heavyweights as Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams, Kevin Gordon, Kate Campbell and Teddy Morgan & The Pistolas) adds to the fun with some sizzling slide guitar on 'Face Of Love' and 'Brand New Pack,' and Trailer Records head Dave Zollo graces 'Brand New Pack' and the soaring 'Almost Free' with his gorgeous, inimitable piano stylings. Marty Letz's pedal steel perfectly underscores the heartbreaking introspection of the closing 'Through The Blinds.' Thunder And The Plains reveals an artist and group carving out a serious upward arc. Straumanis' writing has become deeper-more concise, even as he's broadened his stylistic scope. Dedicated woodshedding and near non-stop gigging have combined to yield explosive growth in his already razor-sharp guitar playing, and his plaintive, passionate vocal delivery betrays ever-increasing confidence and command. At the very heart of it all, of course, is honesty. As with every like-minded populist, regionally-specific roots-rock outfit before them (from Springsteen and Mellencamp on down to your favorite homeys), Eric Straumanis & The Douglas Leaders speak the language of the working stiff and rock like hell to keep the encroaching void at bay--all the while coloring their musical backdrop with dyes wrenched from the land, water and sky that's all around them. And even one listen to this biscuit should make it clear that, out here in the boonies, not all of our thunder comes from the sky... -- Jim Musser, 2001 Another entertaining new effort is Eric Straumanis' Thunder and the Plains. Hailing from Iowa, his album is on Trailer Records whose top gun, Bo Ramsey, is Lucinda Williams' guitarist. "Center of the Town" feels like something off an early Bruce Springsteen album with it's tale of guys with local waitresses on their minds and wanderlust in their hearts. And that 12-string guitar gives it a Byrds feel, too. The title track reminded me of "City Of New Orleans," the lyrical Steve Goodman song that Arlo Guthrie had his only hit with back in 1972. In a pretentious music world dominated by dumb pop, Straumanis is an unpretentious guy making some smart rock. -- Tony Peyser, Santa Monica Mirror.