The son of four generations of coal miners, Erik grew up on the banks of the Monongahela River in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. He came of age on punk rock but eventually discovered that he could never truly escape the gravitational pull of his Appalachian roots. From the on-ramp of The Blasters, X, The Beat Farmers, and Mojo Nixon, he wandered upstream along the Hillbilly Highway until he unearthed some old cassettes by Johnny Cash and George Jones—artists he’d listened to as a kid in the cab of his Uncle Jack’s 18-wheeler.
Erik (aka Cletus McCoy) is also the frontman of The Surreal McCoys, a Cowpunk Americana band that—boosted by airplay of its single “Whole Lotta Folsom” on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country and other outlets—enjoys 50K monthly listeners and has collected over 1.5 million spins on Spotify.
On his first solo album, Appalachian Gothic, Erik takes a nostalgic deep dive into the Appalachia of his youth while wrestling with the hard modern realities of a region that’s been left behind by so many, but stubbornly continues to kick against the pricks.
While the album explores darker themes and raw subject matter like the legacy of coal mining and the ravages of the opioid crisis on songs like “The Devil is Here in These Hills,” “The Appalachian Blues,” “Dear Dad,” and “The Battle of Uniontown,” it taps into a defiant streak of optimism on twangy upbeat rockers like “Winona” and “Yours in the Struggle.”
The album was recorded at Cowboy Technical Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, the legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll guitarist (Joan Jett, Del-Lords, Steve Earle & The Dukes) and producer (Bottle Rockets, Jimbo Mathus, Yayhoos, Sarah Borges).
The album drops on January 20, 2023; the first two singles have a release date of October 17, 2022 (“The Devil is Here in These Hills”) and November 21, 2022 (“Winona”).
The album features Eric Ambel on guitar, Jeremy Chatzky on bass (Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions) and Kenny Soule on drums, with additional appearances by bassist Keith Christopher (Lynyrd Skynyrd), guitarist Andy York (John Mellencamp), and drummer Phil Cimino.
“It’s an album written while in exile, because like so many people I know from West Virginia, I had to, as they say, ‘get out to get ahead.’ But it felt great to come back home and rediscover a place that continues to define who I am, musically and personally.”
Erik mines the Classic Country goldmine of the 60s and 70s on the rollicking “You Can’t Drink All Day” and the torchlit two-stepper “That’s What Jukeboxes Are For,” a duet with Laura Cantrell.
He taps into his inner punk rocker on the lusty “The Gutter & The Stars” and “Miss Lucy”—songs (like about half of those on the record) he co-wrote with Ambel.