Erik Halbig – Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Wow! Here’s one of those records that comes out of nowhere and really grabs ya’. I’m not familiar with Erik, but from the liner notes and some of the guests, he’s obviously associated with Nashville; there are great turns by Jerry Douglas on dobro and Paul Franklin on steel. That said, don’t let me fool you into thinking this is any sort of country album. Rather, it’s a record full of tasty instrumentals that fit somewhere between Robben Ford and Joe Satriani.

Halbig has a great Strat-ish tone that’s big and fat. And his chops are technically brilliant. He also plays with a ton of soul. He shows just how good a player he is right off the bat with “The Lowdown,” a bluesy shuffle, but that really is a bit of an injustice. It gets fairly complex as he mixes chordal work with some amazing single-line work in a solo that left me drooling (by the way the rhythm section here – and on the entire album – cooks!). There’s a mixture of different players, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a very coherent album, and sound.

“The Right Stuff” is just that. A funky rocker that features a solo outro that has tone to die for. “Bourbon Voodoo Swing” is one of a couple of tunes that sounds like the Hot Club of France visiting a Nashville jam session. Check out Franklin’s exquisite pedal steel solo. “Runaway Guitar” is the closest nod to country. Breakneck speed guitar that would make Albert Lee smile melts into some indescribably liquid bends. “Waiema Canyon Blues” is a jazz-tinged gospel/blues that allows Erik time for some very smart – and very soulful – soloing. The album wraps up with “Elena,” a beautiful acoustic piece that showcases Erik’s abilities with fingerpicked chordal work and single-line work.

I can’t say enough about this album. I loved it. Halbig’s soloing sensibilities are just a bit skewed – in a good way. His phrasing isn’t like everyone elses. He’s an interesting player who just plain cooks, and writes excellent tunes. Find out more at

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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