I was thinking to myself earlier this week that I am getting a little frustrated with music lately. It’s not that good music isn’t being made, it’s that I just can’t find the time to listen to a complete album. I can’t drop the needle or push play and let whatever is in or on revolve until its end. The primary reason for this is that there just isn’t enough time on my drive to get in a 40 plus minute album. And if an album does get played without skipping a track but doesn’t finish in one days worth of driving, my attention has completely shifted by the next time the ignition fires. I joked with friends that I was going to get a job at a record store just so I could force myself to finish a record. Even if it’d be a Slayer record, at least I could say I finished.
The 3 albums that I feigned over thus far this year (Animal Collective, Strand of Oaks, Justin Townes Earle) are complete and utter exceptions. And maybe that’s because they played for days on end and the music paralyzed me, made it impossible to push the eject button. Well, needless to say, I finally found another record that didn’t lose my train of thought and actually had me slowing down to hit stop lights just so I’d have more time to spend with it. Here’s the story of how I came across it.
About a week ago I was skimming through an email account that I more or less share with my family and I noticed a paypal receipt. So I clicked on it and just shook my head in amusement. Someone, not me, had purchased a compact disc by a man named The Reverend John Delore titled Ode to an American Urn. And I found this funny because my dad, a man that has his car speakers dominated by Christian talk radio and is not too experienced around computers, obviously took it upon himself to jump into the world of online shopping. And he decided to buy Christian talk. On CD. All I could think was “podcast, podcast, podcast” pops, but soon forgot about it.
And then today, I arrived at my parents house only to find said cd on the counter. I gave it a quick glance and again chuckled at the thought of my dad clicking on the “pay with paypal” button to purchase it. Not five minutes later my mom walks in the room, cd in hand, and says “your dad bought this. He said you should listen to it.”
Shit? I thought. Why would he want to me to listen to something like that? I’m pretty upright and on the path. What gives? I rolled my eyes and gave her a half disgusted scowl.
“It’s John Bauer’s band,” she said.
“Oh. Ok. Cool. I thought it was something completely different. I’ll give it a listen.”
“Well if you take it, you’ve gotta bring it back.”
That right there was enough for me to say ,”Alright. Some other time.” I didn’t feel like being responsible for it. Didn’t feel like being extra careful with it because all too often music makes its way to my car only to get borrowed, lost, or mangled. Plus, at that exact second I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to replace Wilco’s A.M, an album I was enjoying reacquainting myself with, for an album by the son of a family friend/brother of my dentist.
But after holding the album in my hands and looking at every square inch of it, being somewhat intrigued by the song titles and art, and also taking note that there is cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Iodine” on it I decided that there was no good reason for me not to give it a shot.
As a side note and introspective tidbit about your author, one thing to know about me and records is that I only need three songs. My ears only need the first three songs on a record to know if I’ll like it or not. The first track is obvious. If you’re going to lead off with a song, it’s either lyrically or musically one of if not THE best track on the album. Its an invitation for the listener to step inside, contemplate your intentions, or run for the woods. The next two make up the mind of the contemplative. By track two of The Reverend John Delore’s Ode to American Urn I’d already accepted the invitation and wasn’t leaving until told to do so.
I’d pushed play and half expected a Tom Waits-ian growl to accompany the bluesy piano and thick and swampy guitar lines that open up the first track “Art of War.” Instead I got a voice that sounded familiar but one that I couldn’t quite place upon such a short listen. This alone intrigued me enough to keep it rolling to track two. That’s not to say that track one is a throwaway, its anything but that, but track two killed me and told me exactly what to expect to from this album. “Everybody Loves You Just The Same” is a song that is steeped in Americana, is full of guitars that jingle jangle, and carries a hook that won’t leave you for days. Quite honestly its one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Sung in a voice that at one point could be confused for Ryan Adams and at others for The Jayhawks Gary Louris.
The rest of the album successfully pays homage to its many influences, both musical and literary. There’s lyrical similarities to Uncle Tupelo, the rollicking numbers that channel The Band, and an attitude that is reminiscent of Wilco’s first record. Many times while listening I found myself stopping, smiling, and trying to break down the songs. I’d ask myself just what that slinky guitar sound could be derived from or, what do these keys remind me of.
Even with all these influences filling up the room, The Reverend makes Ode to an American Urn his own by writing fantastic songs that rollick, rock, and roll. And if you listen close enough you can even hear the sounds of his home state of Wisconsin coming through the music. While I would love to write more about this unsigned artist that has me really excited for his return home for a couple of tour dates this summer, I’ll let this video of his haunting cover of “Iodine” and the music on his myspace page [http://www.myspace.com/reverendjohndelore] take over. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I do!