BLUEHEELS – Long Gone
I listened to this CD, I wrote the review, and even sent it off to the copy editor. Usually that’s when I put a CD back in its case, put it in the “keep” or “return” pile, and move on to the next one. Funny thing about the BLUEHEELS‘ Long Gone is that it just wouldn’t stay out of my CD player, until after a while I started to suspect that I really hadn’t done it justice. Or even worse, that I might have missed the point.
What separates the BLUEHEELS from every other band claiming membership in the Uncle Tupelo club is Robby Schiller’s remarkable voice. Existing somewhere in that twangy realm between Willie Nelson and Jay Farrar, it catches you off guard. You wait for it to break, you wait for the seemingly inevitable yodel, and then, well, you just fall in love. And it isn’t just how he sings, it’s what he sings. The lyrics are consistently smart and unpretentious, the melodies infectious and just plain catchy. The excellent “Tyler Song” stands out as much for its brilliant “Sometimes love feels like a chore/ Like a luxury that I can’t afford” mantra, as it does for the born-to-be-a-singalong whuh-oh chorus. And the way he sings the word pajamas in “Red Pajamas,” well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swoon a little every time. Even though vocalist Rebecca Krafft proves herself absolutely essential on the former and on the sleepless lament “Up All Night,” I suspect the gospel-tinged “I Stumbled In” would have been even more effective as one man’s plea. “Lord, know I did not deserve / To receive a second chance / I do what I can, oh Lord / You do what I can’t” is more honest than a whole book full of prayers. There’s something in the way he admits, “I am listening for the sound of angels in corduroy pants,” that tugs at my heart, and yeah, there’s more swooning.
If you were wondering whatever happened to the Stones’ “Girl with Faraway Eyes,” her story gets an update in “Girl in the Back of My Mind.” It turns out it isn’t the happy ending they predicted, (“Well I thought we would last/ Thought all our troubles were in the past/ When I told you I’d rope you the moon/ But I guess that I spoke too soon” ) although it sounds like it would have been if Dwight Yoakum had wrested control from Mick Jagger. As that combination implies, the BLUEHEELS boast a timeless country/rock swagger, and Long Gone gives them plenty of opportunities to show off. In fact, the only thing that demonstrates their magnetism better than this disc is seeing them live. So what are you waiting for?