Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heaven Week: Trust Jesus

Slobberbone: Trust Jesus [purchase]

"Now one day this world is gonna curl up and burst,
It's gonna choke on its own tongue and die of its own thirst,
Until that day comes our roads will always be long,
But he's left signposts to guide us along."

--Brent Best, "Trust Jesus"

When the dust finally settles on this decade and we're able to judge the music of the "aughties" with something approaching objectivity, I have little doubt that Slobberbone's 2000 masterpiece, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, will be in my personal Top 3, if not ensconced at the top. For an old Soul Asylum and Replacements fan like me, it was like they were channeling the best songs from each band. In fact, I don't think it's sacrilicious in the slightest to say that Brent Best's songwriting on Everything is on par with the songwriting on any single album by Dave Pirner or Paul Westerberg. Musically, the band was in its absolute prime, marrying its basic Neil Young & Crazy Horse stage ethos with filigrees of acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, Stax-style horns, accordion, piano, and Hammond B-3. I waver on a couple tracks ... one of which is a 2 1/2 minute instrumental ... but it's hard to find another album from this era with so many fist-pumping anthems. Seriously, how many albums are so good that you might need Tommy John surgery after repeated listenings?

Coincidentally, the album was originally slated to be titled Trust Jesus, after today's showcase track, but the record label (New West) was leery about the band being confused with a Christian rock outfit. While on one level that concern is understandable, you'd think that the name Slobberbone would be a pretty big clue that this isn't Stryper. Whatever the case, it's a great tune about the virtue of perseverance in anonymity, with just a hint of Chuck Berry travelogue. The fact that the band toured thousands upon thousands of miles ... from Mexico to Maine, for sure ... on the absolute fringe of mainstream acceptance also gives this tune a certain ironic (and sad) prescience. As it happens, just last night Slobberbone reunited for a benefit in their hometown of Denton, TX. So, for a couple of hours at least, these great songs were brought to life once again.

Lord, I'm only just one man,
Lord, I've only got two hands,
Lord, I'll do the best I can,
Lord, help me help them to understand."

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