*Update 12/24/2020* just noticed that David Lowery added In The Shadow Of The Bull to his bandcamp page over the summer (previously only available on limited edition CD) so I recommend checking it out and following him for timely info on any other music he releases.
I've been pretty into David Lowery's songwriting (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven) since buying "Kerosene Hat" on CD as a high school kid in the mid-90s (and also as a college kid on a European study abroad in the early 00's). The mix of dry humor, harsh irreverence, and wistful vulnerability in Lowrey's lyrics always resonated with me. And the pairing with Johnny Hickman's smooth and skilled lead guitar work made their band Cracker stand out among their '90s alternative/grunge peers. Then at some later point I discovered that magic of Camper Van Beethoven, but that could be a topic of another blog post. Anyway, I saw Cracker play a few times in Atlanta when I was in college, and then more recently they seem to come around to Boston to play every year in January with Camper Van on the bill as well. So I had the chance to see them again last month and it was great hearing them again live.
At the show I saw the merch table had copies of David Lowery's "In The Shadow Of The Bull," a 2019 limited edition release of 1000 copies that was listed as "Out Of Stock" when I'd looked for it online a while back. I'd also noted that the songs didn't seem to be available to streaming anywhere- a bit surprising perhaps, but maybe less so if you're aware of Lowery's views on how modern music distribution affects artists' rights and livelihoods.
But a few copies the CD were available at the merch table that night - at a price considerably higher than I'm accustomed to paying for music anymore - but also it was autographed. I've also become accustomed to hearing music online before I purchase it, but that wasn't an option here. So I bought it, purely the on the blind (deaf?) faith in the artist's reputation. And I found my faith to be rewarded, because "In The Shadow Of The Bull" is definitely something special.
In this stripped down set of 7 songs, Lowery takes a look back across various periods of his life and captures moments from 1963 ("Frozen Sea") to 2010 ("Yonder Distance Shore"), with vivid reflections of his family, his friends, his loves, and his losses. Two songs that stood out immediately were "Disneyland Jail, 1977" - which warns of the dangers of doing mushrooms on Space Mountain (and passing out drunk on the monorail), and "Mexican Chickens, 1989" - which laments being too foolish and selfish to see what he had in someone before leaving her behind. I think the lyrics of this one are amazing and devastating.
An appeal in the liner notes asks the listener to be part of this project: "Please do not make copies, share on social media, or upload ... Think small. Ubiquity is overrated." And it all made sense, why the price of entry was so high, and the contents behind the gate not visible from the outside. I feel part of something now, something more like the way music was back when I was a kid in the early/mid 90s getting into a lot of the music I still love today.
So anyway, to weakly tie this back in to our band, here's a video of us playing CVB's "Take The Skinheads Bowling." Enjoy! <3 cg
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