Sometimes you just have to make a change. It could be your job or your tire or even renaming your band from The Mooncrikets to The Pillars of Society. The reason for this last change is shrouded in mystery, but rest assured, the band you've known and loved for nearly two decades is still the same gaggle of lovable (and socially conscious) goofballs, albeit in a slightly more rural format. Another change, and this one's a biggie, is that their new album, Short Stories, was produced by Grammy-winning producer Scott Mathews – a modest man who has also produced, recorded, or performed with such modest artists as Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and Greg Giblet (some guy from Toledo who didn't get much airplay).
The Pillars start off their stories with the modern folk tone of "Information Highway," a rambling song built on peppy acoustic guitars, harmonica and an urgent vocal tone hammering humorous lyrics like "Stranded on the information highway / With a lousy two dollars in change."
The funny and sweet "You used to love me like cornbread and butter / Until things turned to sh** between you and my mother" begins the stomp rocker "Cornbread and Butter." "Attitude," which was earlier recorded as the Mooncrikets, bears heavier guitars that present the rough side of a cast of seedy characters who hide their true character behind good deeds before plunging into a mighty catchy oft-repeated harmonized chorus of "Hey man, it's your attitude." More rock is to be found in the breakneck pace of "In The Meantime," a tumbling mixture of acoustic and electric instruments with organs that are seemingly propelled by adrenaline and moonshine.
The Pillars show a quieter side on "Great Divide," another Mooncrikets song. Here the band softly offers up a mock toast to the successful business people who surely sold out to get to where they are. Lyrics such as "Here's to the ass that only flies first class" against lush harmonies, eventually blasting into an aggressive musical passage before reverting back to a quiet note. "Suburbs" is another jab at social classes, this one bearing an endearing Ed's Redeeming Qualities meets Possum Trot Orchestra vibe that brings a smile to your face as you sing along with the harmonic ending.
"Junior Johnson" is a sad tale about losing money to the title character who went to buy some weed and never returned, opening with "You might think that I am toasted / But I'm really not this time" delivered in a friendly, musically unmusical manner that is almost like Ed's Redeeming Qualities reformed as a rockier, stonier outfit. Bluegrass makes resurgence in "Gleason's Pond" as fiddle and banjo present a raucous hootenanny filled with colorful characters that like to swim in the buff. Banjo, mandolin, twangy vocals, solid harmonies and shaky theology make the country-folk "Let Me In" a most enjoyable listen, while the preceding "Old Charlie" is a dark, moody, cautionary tale ("Charlie's damn lucky he's barely alive / which is the price of doing business with another man's wife") that could have sprung from the mind of John Minton. For a change of pace there's "Katie," a relaxed, resigned ballad comprised of piano and melodic female background vocals.
While the band changed their name and moved slightly deeper into roots rock, what hasn't changed is their surgically precise musicianship and top notch songwriting. The band has more members than Woodburn has residents, and everyone plays multiple instruments – from cowbell to mandolin to the usual guitars and drums (listing them all would surely leave someone or some instrument out, and I really don't want to cheese off the woodwinds). Suffice it to say that The Pillars of Society have packed some amazing guitar tones (and gee-golly-spiffy solos), tight pocket rhythms and snazzy strumming into their Short Stories. So gather up some friends, tell them to bring some brew and sit back and enjoy a batch of musically beautiful stories that only The Pillars of Society could tell.
More information is available at www.thepillarsofsociety.com.
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