Rind Stars, The Not So Great Depression

Rind Stars, The Not So Great Depression

When I heard Rind Stars’ 2007 electro-folk debut, Sounds of Fire and Light, I couldn’t wait for the follow up. And when the bass player had a breakdown and left the band, city, and state, I still thought they’d record soon.

Then when the drummer met his wife and got married, and the guitarist had his second and third child, I thought they’d break up the band. Then when the singer’s sister died, and another member’s wife died, I thought I’d heard the last of the band. I never expected to get a press release and a new album in the mail from the Rind Stars, announcing the The Not So Great Depression.

It’s amazing that even close friends can stay in touch when half are celebrating life’s greatest moments and the other half are losing everything. But to bridge that divide and collaborate on art, each expressing their life experiences — the changes, the lessons, the pleasure, and the pain — is a miracle. I’ve heard Springsteen sing about blight and desperation and describe someone’s living nightmare, all while a ten-piece band of piano(s), strings, and horns responds with defiant joy.

I’ve seen Lyle Lovett’s Large Band play a similar riverboat swing while he sings about love and loss, but I’ve never seen an unsigned band attempt that kind of happy music/sad lyrics so successfully. The Rind Stars, on The Not So Great Depression are dangerously close to operating on that level.

The music is often simply happy. There’s a construct of Dylan’s Newport Folk experiment, and The Stones’ rendition of Memphis blues. The characters in the songs race to escape hurricanes, die in floods, and swallow bottles of pills, even as the accompanying music is populated by joyful horns, swinging steel guitar melody, and playful honky-tonk strings. When the guitars are playing TV jingle-level hooks and layering Creedence rhythms with Skynyrd instrumentation, including the laughing ragtime piano, the lyrics are making promises to the dying and swearing to pick up the pieces.

Perhaps the broken, weeping, gnashing characters in the songs find strength in the music. And that’s what art can do best for any of us: help us cope with life. Even as we’re dragged through the worst of it, telling each other our sad stories, we can put something else between us and the pain. Even if we never look back on it and laugh, we can put things in their place.

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Review by . Review posted Monday, May 16th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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