RIP ELT (2004 - 2011)



"Rancho Folly IV is fueled by catharsis. Ferraro sings with the directness of a man who might have become a little fed up and is now airing every opinion with wounding candor. It reminds me of a record I once received as a gift. It was the story of Jesse James as sung by Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris and Charlie Daniels. When any of those last three sang, they did so with typical country accoutrements: vocal flourishes and dabs of familiar country whine. Yet, whenever Cash sang, it was with directness and stubborn intent. The refusal to embellish was implicit in his voice. Ferraro affects the same dogged sincerity, albeit certainly at a different range and in a different style.

Bespectacled with a circumspect scowl and grainy voice, Ferraro sings loser-of-the-week anthems. There is an approachable, everyman sense about his work on Rancho Folly IV. Eaton Lake Tonics dodge the many stumbling blocks that often separate fan and artist, of pretense and imprecision and cold presumption. Music is impossible. Just to have one’s thoughts arrive at ears on a melodic envelope is an achievement that exceeds mere ambition. That task registers on a miraculous scale. Eaton Lake Tonics’ Rancho Folly IV executes this delicate enterprise with minimal encumbrance.

What impresses me most about Rancho Folly IV are its several pinnacle moments. Most albums get one or two real crescendos, only a couple of truly climactic swells. Here, Eaton Lake Tonics manage to fit the effort into most songs. These stop just short of sounding forced, being more like appropriate exclamations suffixing Ferraro’s meticulous diatribes. It fits the album’s one-sided, conversational tone, like a speaker who suddenly becomes very animated on a particular point or at a certain part of his story.

Now there is no more Eaton Lake Tonics, but writing their epitaph would feel like a hoax. Twice in the last month, I have seen Tony Ferraro in on-stage cahoots with Ryan Thomas Becker and that is already one-half of Eaton Lake Tonics. Fortunately, Ferraro plans to keep writing and performing solo and is planning to enter the studio later this year. He is one of a handful of deft songwriters in the area, quick-witted and presciently gifted at musical architecture. His progressing ambition should be a source of encouragement to DFW music fans."