When Bob Lewis packed up his stuff and left Northeastern Pennsylvania for Nashville in 2014, he put a period on his involvement in the punk and hardcore scene that he helped define in the depressed coal-mining region. Bands like Lewis’s Bedford, Jay Morgans’ Soughwutt and Burial Ground offered an outlet for kids in Wilkes-Barre in the late Nineties, a city most famous for a catastrophic 1972 flood. On his new album End of an Error, Lewis offsets those memories of angst and disillusionment with the rebirth he is experiencing as a fixture of the East Nashville singer-songwriter community.
A concise six-song effort, End of an Error finds Lewis working with producer Nate Wedan and tapping into a vibrant Nashville talent pool: guitar hero Aaron Lee Tasjan, heartland rocker Andrew Leahey, vocalist Megan Palmer and Microwave Mountain’s Jamie Timm all play on the record. The result is dreamy Americana-pop with introspective, often quirky, lyrics that underscores the diversity of music coming out of East Nashville.
Opener “All My Sins” is moody and brooding, with Lewis singing about the interminable boredom of that Pennsylvania existence and trying to make sense of “all the stupid shit” he did in his youth. He returns to that bleak notion at record’s end, hopelessly declaring “nobody cares, what’s the point” in “Help Us Now.”
But End of an Error isn’t all Lewis’s personal therapy. Rather, it succeeds because of its accessibility, a result of Lewis recruiting the hook-minded writer Jamie Kent (“Ain’t No Jesus”) for the middle meat of the record. “Dark Glasses” shoots an arrow through the heart of conformity, as Lewis obliterates the idea that a person’s outward image defines what’s inside. “It’s getting harder to pretend / in the show that never ends / the letting-go must begin,” he sings, setting up a prechorus battle between “giving up” and “fitting in.”
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Lewis clearly chooses the former on the irresistible “Drunk on Love,” surrendering himself to the wooziness that comes with infatuation. For him, the song is cathartic. Amidst acoustic strums and breathless pauses, Lewis washes away the black dust of a restricting coal-country past. The emergent humanity sparkles like a diamond.