Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Librarian gone wrong, or, I don't know how I'll ever get to heaven now

It started out innocently enough. I buy the bluegrass CDs for the library and I noticed that the Steeldrivers' debut album was attracting an unusual amount of positive buzz. So, when the library's copy was ready, I checked it out.

Reader, I loved it! A group of veteran back-up musicians and songwriters from the country music scene, The Steeldrivers decided to strike out on their own and play some bluegrass. The first hook is Chris Stapleton's voice; it's rough but somehow perfect, with a startling emotional range and the authenticity necessary for singing about jail time, jumping trains, and piney hollows.

The voice hits you first, but repeated listening reveals an overall musicanship that is just incredible. There's something more happening here than just having the chops - the musicians work seamlessly together, but then one or another will come snaking into your consciousness with a breath-taking riff, utterly gimmick-free, seemingly born of pure joy.

Repeated listening. Therein lies the problem. Reader, I was beginning to experience Willingness to Incur Overdue Fines. This is no trivial matter. Our deparment head holds us to a high standard and he's a zero-tolerance sort of guy: If you can't be good, be gone.

Denial came first, of course. There I was, drinking dark whiskey, telling white lies: "I just forgot it. I'll take it back tomorrow."

But I didn't. Richard Bailey's banjo and Tammy Rogers' fiddle were obvious pleasures, but I was just beginning to realize the equal importance of Mike Henderson's mandolin and Mike Fleming's bass and harmony. And did I mention Chris Stapleton's voice? My need to hear it again could strike at any time.

The truth became clear. I had followed The Steeldrivers to the blue side of the mountain (where the sun don't ever shine) and it was not clear that I was ever coming back. I, who had dedicated my professional life to resource sharing, no longer wanted to share.

All of the songs on the album were written by band members. Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson are a particularly compelling pair; some of their work is reminiscent of the Garcia-Hunter duo of years past. Lyrically, it is a dark album: betrayal has a prominent place and there's even a civil war dirge. Dark, but not depressing - this is an album with soul.

I considered my options. There was, of course, the midnight train to Memphis, but it might be a bit late in life for me to embrace groupie-dom. I could repent and come clean. I could wait for exposure and the humiliation of a trip to the department head's office.

Reader, I bought it! Walk right and you'll soon be free. I returned the library's copy, paid my fine, and am now doing penance. Sobering to think of all the things that never would've happened, if it hadn't been for love.

Check it out (if you dare) - it's (back) at your library!

PS: For all those thinking "Jeez, lady, you shoulda just burned it" - please schedule a re-education session with the head of the Adult Services Department immediately.

1 comment:

sarah said...

I have to say, this CD is great! I always enjoy Anne's recommendations, but this time she really hit the mark! Keep up the great work, Anne!