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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

a home for the americana diaspora
September 26, 2015
Scott Foley

I’m not an automatic Springsteen fan.  I’m more Nebraska than Darkness.  I’m more likely to go “Tunnel Of Love” than “Thunder Road”.  That said, if I were to make a list of some of my favorite rock lyrics, I’d strongly consider “Wendy let me in / I wanna be your friend / I wanna guard your dreams and visions” as among the best.  And I’m all in favor of the small town mythos, the romanticism that demands you get out now or forever hold your place at your dad’s hardware store.  “Jack and Diane”, “Night Moves”, Petty’s “The Waiting”. 

There’s a strain of roots music that fulfills a similar romantic streak.  Think Two Cow Garage, American Aquarium or Glossary.  Or Max Fender from Cincinnati’s Alone at 3am.  Now from Dayton, KY, Fender’s been at this game for nearly 20 years, though Show the Blood is only his group’s fourth full length record.  Where Springsteen’s heroes “gotta get out while we’re young”, Fender writes of folks who might have waited a bit too long.  They still dream of greener pastures, but perhaps can’t quite figure out how to reach them anymore.  In “Most Men”, Fender states “Most men / They lead quiet lives / Desperation every night”.  The music of Alone at 3am is propelled by urgent drums and close, claustrophobic electric guitar.  Fender’s working class rasp recalls some of the above bands, or perhaps a less caustic strain of Arliss Nancy, tempered somewhat by the harmonies and keys of Sarah Davis.  The abrasive punk elements are also countered by a strong sense of melody, as in the album’s opener, “Story On 6th”:  There’s a girl / Bruises on her eyes / And she sings ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’… She don’t know / There’s so much more”.  While Fender avoids unnecessarily flowery lyricism, he does allow for the occasional existential moment, such as on Show the Blood’s hardest song, “Upside”, which addresses determinism and purpose:  Tell me ‘bout the upside to this / Tell me why we exist / Tell me why I don’t quit / All this pain”.  Max Fender’s world may be cracked, but since he’s a true romantic there’s the occasional room for light.  Title aside, “I’m Dying” will be in consideration when I pull together my favorite songs for the year.  I’m not dead / But I’m dying … Maybe one day / I won’t be so broke”.  It’s hardly “Rainbow Connection”, but there’s not a song on Show the Blood that refuses to allow for some brief glimmer or spark of hope.  Hell, the collection’s closer, “Late 90s”, is unafraid to advise “Hold onto your dream / A little while longer”.  The band’s new songs succeed even to a greater extent than 2012’s strong Midwest Mess in successfully drawing together elements of Fender’s working class mythology and Alone at 3am’s roots.  

I'll be away from the mic next Saturday.  Tarnation's Andy D will be bringing his own blend of the hard stuff to the airwaves in my stead.  Please treat him well.

* Bottle Rockets, "Something Good"  South Broadway Athletic Club  (Bloodshot, 15)
* Drive-by Truckers, "Primer Coat (live)"  It's Great To Be Alive!  (ATO, 15)
* Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, "Get Loud"  Get Loud  (Dan Baird, 15)  D
* Band of Heathens, "LA County Blues"  One Foot In the Ether  (BoH, 09)
* Lucero, "Throwback No. 2"  All a Man Should Do  (ATO, 15)
* Whitney Rose, "My First Rodeo"  Heartbreaker Of the Year  (Cameron House, 15)
* Colin Linden, "No More Cheap Wine"  Rich In Love  (Stony Plain, 15)  D
* Caleb Caudle, "Bottles & Cans"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is American Music, 14)
* Ryan Adams, "Welcome To New York"  1989  (PaxAm, 15)  D
* Dave Rawlings Machine, "Last Pharaoh"  Nashville Obsolete  (Acony, 15)
* Rod Picott, "Until I'm Satisfied"  Fortune  (Welding Rod, 15)
* Kill County, "Straight Six Ford"  Year Of Getting By  (Kill County, 10)
* Mount Moriah, "Calvander"  single  (Merge, 15)  D
* Blitzen Trapper, "Love Grows Cold"  All Across This Land  (Vagrant, 15)
* Wood Brothers, "Snake Eyes"  Paradise  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
* Corb Lund, "Alt Berliner Blues"  Things That Can't Be Undone  (New West, 15)
* Black Lillies, "First Time"  Hard To Please  (Thirty Tigers, 15)  D
* Jason Boland & the Stragglers, "Holy Relic Sale"  Squelch  (Proud Souls, 15)  D
* Kasey Chambers, "Too Late To Save Me"  Bittersweet  (Sugar Hill, 15)
* Pollies, "Jackson"  Not Here  (Single Lock, 15)
* Will Johnson, "Call Call Call"  Swan City Vampires  (Undertow, 15)
* Fernando, "Save Me"  Leave the Radio On  (Fluff & Gravy, 15)
* Matt the Electrician, "Never Had a Gun"  single  (MtE, 15)  D
* Allison Moorer, "Think It Over"  Hardest Part  (MCA, 00)
* Jim Lauderdale, "Sad Bell"  Soul Searching  (Sky Crunch, 15)  D
* Gary Clark Jr, "Church"  Story Of Sonny Boy Slim  (Warner, 15)
^ Alone At 3am, "Story On 6th"  Show the Blood  (Sofaburn, 15)  D

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