We are living in times where the digital world and streaming playlists have been both a gift and a curse to the music maker and the music buyer. The gift of this revolution often comes in being introduced to regional artists that have been making great music for decades but are new to the listener. Ed Englerth is one such gift.
Englerth has over a dozen projects under his belt. Check out his website (www.EdEnglerth.com) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/EdEnglerthBand) for his discography and how to access it. His latest offering is entitled "Everyone Needs Healing. "Englerth is a wily street poet and musical troubadour whose craft simultaneously soothes the soul while planting a seed of divine discontent. Reminiscent of Canada’s prophet and music royalty Bruce Cockburn, Englerth, like his counterparts, will muse over the state of humanity singing his lament and then go into a spoken-word rant that cuts to the heart of the matter.
It has been said of Englerth that his music seems to transcend genres but on the storytelling, side asks all the perennial questions. It is his almost stark spiritual honesty that both troubles and touches the heart of anyone within earshot.
Englerth has been a staple on the music scene for easily three or four decades. Playing major festivals and small shows primarily in the Midwest (Englerth is from Michigan), he an example of someone whose calling has always been creating great art and curating the stories the soul tells itself and the world.
This new project “Everyone Needs Healing,” profoundly reveals the people so easily forgotten on our streets in affluent America. Englerth’s street prophet side is operative in this project as he asks questions in “Change” and “Martin” that honor the homeless and the intransigent. Something tells the listener he has been there before himself.
My personal encounters with Englerth over the years have always been filled with subtle teachings his mere presence brings when he enters a room. Tall and lanky, one cannot miss his head sticking above the crowd. Maybe it is this elevated visual position that enables his gaze to go deep and wide and long. He sees what many do not see.
In this latest album, the listener is asked to take a deep dive into the soul and ask oneself the harder questions. Englerth’s music approach on this project is fairly minimalistic. Stripped down production values and sparse instrumentation make the songs that much more emotionally charged as Englerth knows how to create a haunting melody out of thin air. Much like a Jackson Browne or even a Bob Dylan, Englerth songs are fairly uncomplicated musically but melodically strong as he is a vocalist with deep feeling dripping off his vocal chords. You hear and feel the pain of the homeless people he sings about. He is not merely performing. He is as they say in spiritual circles, “entering in.”
Englerth’s fingerpicking skills and left of center guitar tunings also add to his compositional styling. His songs are as good as his poems. The soundtrack of this latest offering fits the heart’s musing from the lyrical side. There is no compositional disconnect here. Englerth is, after all, a singer-songwriter first and foremost.
On this latest release, you can hear everyone from David Crosby (of CSN & Y fame) to Bruce Cockburn and for the newbies to the aforementioned troubadours and little bit of Jason Isbell’s poetry and his stripped-down musical mood off a project like Southeastern. Living in an age of Americana, New Folk, and the resurgence of the singer-songwriter, Englerth stands poised to be a newly discovered veteran many of the younger artists will quickly view as a musical mentor. He still does countless live shows with his band and solo. He is still a musical and spiritual force with which to be reckoned.
Englerth is certainly a writer who comes from a faith perspective. But with that being said, there is no religious pandering and certainly no cheap clichéd emotion to get someone to a place only pain and suffering can get them. Englerth has been known to say, “Songwriting is cheaper than therapy.”
Englerth tends to be the other side of faith and Christianity we know we need but don’t want to endure the discomfort. As a writer and street poet, he seems to have this knack of going into these cryptic places and singing the troubled soul back into the light of love and grace.
I think that is why he is still playing live, still writing, still speaking out on topics, people, and places that need storied songwriters to pen the narrative that speaks of their personal redemption. “Everyone Needs Healing” is a statement but also a presence contained within this project. I would say that if you are a member of the musical and lyrical tribes of Mark Heard, Bruce Cockburn, and Lyle Lovett you are an Ed Englerth tribal brother or sister. Pull up his songs and join the tribal gathering.