[guest post] 2009 In Review, Vol. 1 - The Roadside Graves

As I’ve done for the past two years on PHW, I’ve asked a handful of the artists I’ve blogged about over the last 12 months to reminisce, musically, on 2009. I asked a mix of my favorite local artists, as well as several more nationally recognizable acts, with the hope of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me. In the coming 2 or 3 weeks there will be a series of “guest” posts from some names you may recognize, if you were paying attention this year…

2007’s No One Will Know Where You’ve Been made people take notice of The Roadside Graves, a roots rock band from New Jersey who have now made two of the better Americana albums of the past three years. Their latest is called My Son’s Home, which, upon its June release, I claimed to be one of the summer’s best albums. Well, after letting it soak in over the last few months I’m ready to up the ante - it’s one of the year’s best. The 18-song opus, released by An Aquarium Drunkards’ Autumn Tone Records, is a gritty, sprawling journey through nearly every facet of American music. Here are some more nice things I had to say about it:

[My Son’s Home] is truer to the rowdy tendencies of their live show than anything they have previously released. In addition to the already mentioned Springsteen influence you’ll hear plenty of folk, blues, country, and soul, as well as The Pogues, Exile-era Stones, The Band, and Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. The production is electrifying from start to finish - at times the Graves sound like they’re blowing the roof off a crowded, smoky barroom and later like they're serenading the starry sky from a porch deep in the woods. The songwriting of John Gleason is also as strong as ever - religious imagery and themes of conflicted families and war surface regularly, giving the album a loose themetic unity revolving around, in their own words, "friends in a variety of familiar settings: the homestead, the battlefield, the country and the city."

As he did two years ago, lead singer/lyricist John Gleason has contributed a summation of a year in the life of The Roadside Graves. His words here pack the same wallop as they do in his songs, displaying a unique ability to find deeper meaning in the smallest details. The signs of a great songwriter. Enjoy:


Winter - Word on the teacher underground network is we are up for an obnoxious flow of snow. Only falling during weekdays, of course.

TV - Just received a magazine with Tina Fey on the cover. I’m very attracted to her. Didn’t realize till just about now. It’s even, my wife is already smitten with Don Draper from Mad Men (though when he was on 30 Rock it almost made my head explode). I’m also about 3 episodes from the end of Battlestar Gallactica (we don’t have cable, so yes I’m severly behind) and not sure if I want it to end, ever.

Comics - I have religiously followed the death of Batman this year only to be disappointed. Maybe it’s because I’m 32. Or possibly Nightwing just can’t handle the cowl. Though Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Robin” title has been steadily amazing. Also recently discovered “Ganges” by Kevin Huizenga. I’ve never read anything that so accurately describes how difficult it is to sleep when you aware that you are trying to sleep.

Roadside Graves - Jesus, this was a hell of a year. I’d like to thank everyone who has written about us, come to a show, and helped spread “My Son’s Home”. I’m proud of the record and hope there’s something worth coming back to each time someone listens to it. Our humble goal this year was to drive to Los Angeles and back. We succeeded and managed to play a few shows in between.
The worst was easily Jackson, Mississippi. We book most of the shows ourselves and somehow the streams had been crossed. We ended up playing a “show” in the middle of an open mic night. I sang roughly two songs before a spirited male walked up to me while singing and whispered in my ear, “Don’t think you’re gonna play forty more fucking songs!” So we shut down and played one more song acoustic right in front of his table. He eventually explained he was on acid, offered me some (politely declined), and knocked his pint glass off his table.

My favorite heckler was in L.A., we again were playing acoustic and he was screaming undistinguishabley, so I sang in front of him and lit my chest hair on fire, hoping the shock and smell would keep him quiet ‘till the end of the song.

Thankfully, we had some incredible and interesting shows like playing in a backyard in Reno, a tattoo shop in Texas, a barn in Iowa, and a haunted hotel in Flagstaff. My personal favorite was Milwaukee. Toward the end of the set we played in the crowd and the audience joined along hitting beer bottles, breaking glasses, and buying us whiskey. Still, some nights the “second set” (our name for what happens in our motel room) was noteworthy for its inclusion of self punishment by belt, Ramen noodle soup, and gratuitous self exposure.

We were fortunate enough to play SXSW and MONOLITH, Passion Pit bought me a shot of tequila with hot sauce, and CMJ where I took an afternoon taxi to Beth Israel hospital to have my lip stitched after an on stage collision with a rusty cymbal. My thanks to the kind bartender who quickly supplied a clean bar rag and shot of bourbon. Oh, yeah and we now have a manager! And he’s quite handsome. I’d say a close second to Ralph Fiennes (my choice as the most handsome man on Earth).

Autumn Tone is re-releasing our first record this January, If Shacking Up is All You Want to Do and a new 6 song EP in Spring called You Won’t be Happy with Me. I’m waiting on the remix. I hope someday one of our songs is remixed. I’m always so jealous when I see people dancing at a club. It pains me that we don’t make dance music. I really should be writing sad dance music.

Music - Either music was better this year or I just paid closer attention. Thanks to LaLa I discovered Alela Diane, Hammock, and Brian Eno’s Discreet Music. Favorite records this year would have to be Bonnie Prince Billy’s Beware, continuing his impressive tract of creating dark and bold and unusually melodic music, J Tillman’s Year in the Kingdom, a man alone with a towering physical and audible presence, Sunset Rubdown’s Dragonslayer, beautiful organized chaos, and Camera Obscura’s My Maudlin Career, a well crafted soundtrack to playing hooky on a sunny day. This was the first year I looked forward to listening to the radio thanks to shows like Blog Radio and Your Roots are Showing on Sirius. And Saturday nights I crawled into bed late to space out to a radio show called Echoes and lay awake in the morning for my weekly dose of Sleepy Hollow on WXPN.

Lesson - Greatest lesson of this year: If you are in a band don’t watch the movie ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL with your wife.

Thanks for reading.

MP3 :: Far and Wide
MP3 :: Ruby
(from My Son’s Home. Buy here)

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