Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Music Monday - I Tripped, Fell and Landed in Finlandia

A funny thing happened to me over the weekend.  My nephew turned eight and we threw a party for him.  Not just any party . . .NO, it was a Super Mario birthday party, complete with Super Mario place settings, balloons and a winner take all Super Mario Battle Royale (i still haven't figured out exactly what the rules were or how they determined the winner, but there were goodie bags to be won and i'm happy to report that i managed to escape the party with some poor kids bag.  it's disappointment, kid.  get used to it.).

Somehow, between the arrival of the first party participant and the unveiling of the birthday cake, I found myself in quite the conundrum:  I was thirsty AND bored . . .a horrible combination for me.  The Sprite that I found just wasn't doing the trick and then i found it.  Hidden away in the closed off bar area of the house was a large bottle, a "handle" if you will, of Finlandia.  "A HA," I said to myself, out loud.  Mixed with Sprite, I could successfully hide my degenerate desire to make this party into a better party, where an eight year old could get a complimentary body slam from crazy uncle Chris and, before I knew it, the bottle of vodka was all but gone and I was throwing a Nerf football across the street, daring them to go get it and NOT get hit by a car.  I that mean?  Maybe.  Was I entertained?  ABSOLUTELY.  So, all in all, the party was a success.  I made it out alive, drunk and with somebody's goodie bag.  It could, however, have been a complete disaster had some poor kid played chicken with a car and lost.

Moral of the story: Don't invite me to you kid's birthday party.  Now, on to the good stuff . . .

What does it sound like to hear things go horribly wrong?  How does it smell to have something you love wash away in a storm that nearly killed a city?  If you want to know, ask Steven Stubblefield of this week's band, Starlings, TN.  Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005 and took with it the music Stubblefield had been recording.  The storm washed away the hard drive that contained months of his work and, a result, he spent the next three years on a bit of a musical hiatus, helping people in Biloxi, MS in recovery efforts.  Eventually, he made his way back to his hometown of Hattiesburg, MS, saying of his time in Biloxi, "I enjoyed the time I was in Biloxi and will never forget the things I saw, heard, and the people I met while I was there. There were many precious moments. When Katrina blew in I had already begun recording the ‘next album.’ I lost the hard drive I had been recording to during the storm and when I discovered several instruments were also lost, I was devastated"

Eventually, he was able to replace the lost instruments and hard drives and ended up laying down an album that pays homage to his musical inspirations.  Having grown up around gospel, you can almost hear the church pews creaking and the ghosts of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams humming approving harmonies in the background in songs like "Sweet Rosianne," "Burnin' Barrel" and "Can't Do Nothin'."

On other songs, Stubblefield channels storytellers like Bruce Springsteen, recounting the stories of the downtrodden and wounded.  The album closes with two amazing songs that could would have fit perfectly on Springsteen's iconic album, "Nebraska."  "Reason to Believe" and the title song, "How Dark it is Before the Dawn" find Stubblefield alone, strumming away two gorgeous songs.

If you like "Jacksonville City Nights" era Ryan Adams, J. Tillman or Damien Jurado, you'll love the simple arrangements  and the pure honesty that shines through in each song.  The perfect example is the song, "Missouri."  Stubblefield sings, "you're in Mississippi, while i am in misery . . ."

Starlings, TN on the web:

Have a nice week, boys and girls . . .