Written by: Jen Dan
With Empty Mansions, New York-located songsmith and multi-instrumentalist C.K. Flach delivers an album of music with meaning, leaning heavily on lyrics-centered songs. The alternative folk/indie rock artist from Albany believes it is his mission to make a difference through his music and lyrics.
Flach opens up his heart and mind on Empty Mansions, a timely and relevant concept record that focuses on current topics like politics, inequality, and other social issues, in a sincere and searching way. He doesn’t have all the answers, and like the rest of us, he’s searching for a way out of the hole that we’ve dug for ourselves.
All of the instruments on the album were played by Flach who began drumming at the age of 10 while also learning how to play the guitar. One thing led to another and he ended up starting a band called The Kindness in 2012. In 2016, Flach began to concentrate on his own compositions, deciding to go solo, but also asking his friends and family to help as needed on the creation of Empty Mansions.
Nine clear-eyed tracks and one poem emerged from the process, including the resonant title song where Flach succinctly states, “I’m sick of politics / Old men telling lies…” It’s a contemplative lament, but also lyrically outward-looking as Flach sings in a deep, well-pronounced, and deliberately sung manner. His emotionally subdued words are accompanied by the strum and pick of acoustic guitars, and occasional melancholic cello lines, piano notes, and thumped drums.
Alt-folk lead single “Boxcar Dreaming” uses similar instrumentation, but with an emphasis on piano and cello and a more pronounced drum beat. Flach’s vocals are bolstered once in a while by female harmonies as he uses religious references like the heavenly host and the Lord (on the dancefloor!) to promote the idea of finding a new path in life if the track you’re on has reached a dead end.
The introspective, lyrically Mark Kozelek-like story-teller “Calamity” opens with muted strummed guitar and harmonica pulls. Flach comes in with slightly trembling vocals, taking on the perspective of other people and how they have to deal with their specific troubles. He’s surrounded by emphatic piano notes, the return of plaintive harmonica, and finally a gentle drum beat.
The anti-war number “Machine Gun”, which is spot-on about the mess the US is in now with the current divisive and destructive President and administration, features a soulful, but sorrowful sing-talking Flach delivering his unvarnished (and borrowed from President Lincoln) words that, “A nation divided cannot stand” amid harmonica calls and strummed acoustic guitar. He speaks of the American Dream, a dream deferred right now (and that was borrowed from Langston Hughes), declaring with a catch in his throat, “Land of the free / One day I sure hope this is so.”
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