When we escape the massive R.E.M. marketing juggernaut, sometimes there are elements in the sideprojects which are worth discussing. The Steve Wynn - Scott McCaughey Baseball-writing machine is set to release a second album of songs about America's favorite sport, baseball.
I have always appreciated McCaughey and Wynn's dictionary knowledge of the sport and some of it's more colorful figures like Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych (1976) or Carl Mays, whose tragically struck and killed Ray Chapman on a pitch. Of course what is a band created to write songs about baseball and not write one about Billy Buck? Yes, Bill Buckner will have his own personally autographed song for everyone's listening pleasure.
However, getting a glimpse of some of the subjects being covered here, they involve some of the more calamitous characters of the game which, for baseball fans, should suggest another great record.
The album is out on March 1st and oddly enough will be making all sorts of Spring Training Appearances in Arizona which would mean hardly any type of promtional stuff for 'Collapse Into Now'.
Volume 2: High and Inside tracklist:
2. Panda and The Freak
3. Fair Weather Fans
4. Don't Call Them Twinkies
5. Chin Music
6. Buckner's Bolero
7. Tony (Boston's Chosen Son)
8. Ichiro Goes to the Moon
9. The Straw that Stirs the Drink
10. Look Out Mom
11. Pete Rose Way
12. Twilight of My Career
13. Here Lies Carl Mays
Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey are not just two musicians who I appreciate for their talents on the stage but for their wealth of knowledge in America ’s Pastime; that being baseball. If you listen to the album, the ‘Baseball Project’ it is not filled with the familiar faces of baseball but offers a Ken Burn’s soundtrack into some of the stories and moments that make baseball such as rich part of our culture.
They are richly observant of the faces and names of baseballs past. I can imagine that someone probably threw away their baseball card collections at some point, and can tell the stories about how they owned a Mantle or Mays. One of the big concerns whenever you write an entire album about a sport is that it could turn out to be hokey. In some cases, the stories aren’t exactly happy, i.e. the story of Curt Flood or Mark McGwire were not stories that would seemingly be put on my lists of songs that bring joy and happiness to my life, but they also represent characters who are underappreciated, (see Flood and his role in Free Agency) and tarnished (see McGwire) and steroids.
Thus, Baseball is not the happy-go-lucky sport, but one filled with romance, with loss with pain and exhuberance. It is a sport that is not set by a clock but by outs, so you cannot be a pussy and run out the clock. Currently, teams bring in, a "Closer" for those pressure moments at the end of the game with the game on the line. Maybe this speaks to why I have always loved it, and yet at the same time get the butterflies going through my heart knowing that game is never over until the fat lady is singing.
Luckily there were no fat ladies singing on Friday evening.