The Ohio indie-rockers are at once grungy,
structurally predictable and anthemic – but they’re also enduringly bright,
promising and wonderful.
BY MARY LEARY
At first audio glance, Red Wanting Blue doesn’t make my kind
of music. Hmm… but since I like about
nine existing kinds of music, as well as sounds that color outside the lines,
that’s not quite on-target. The band’s style – grungy, structurally predictable, anthemic – just isn’t one with which I tend
to resonate. At first hearing, I thought, “The lead singer sounds like several that
I can’t put a finger on” (because I’ve ignored them), “that I’ve heard a lot –
and one that I can – Eddie Vedder.” But, honestly, these guys have won me over.
The successful seduction has only a little to do with the
arduous path of founding and sole extant original minstrel Scott Terry (the guy
with the Vedder-ish grit in his vox). Thousands of players endure AWOL collaborators
and the need to rekindle chemistry with new ones – let alone memorizing different
beers, wives, girlfriends, groupies and grannies. Terry’s done this about eight
times. Since the seminal unit sprang from the quads around Ohio U. (Athens) in
‘95, Terry’s chain has been yanked by a stream of “breakout” events – if not
red herrings, they’ve been rather sparse bread crumbs. From 1995-2001, in bar
after tour stop, he pretty much just sang his heart out. In ‘01, the fourth
self-release Sirens debuted in first
place at Awarerecords.com. In ‘02 the band performed on CD 101.1 and joined the
Sprite Liquid Mix Tour. In ’04, nine years in, momentum finally started growing
legs when tracks from Pride: The Cold
Lover went into rotation on XM’s Unsigned
Radio and several publications threw up unsigned-band-to-watch flares.
Although it’s rather remarkable for one guy to keep his foot
on the pedal while others hop on or off the ride, that, by itself, wasn’t
enough to invite a closer listen to These
Magnificent Miles. It went more like this: I couldn’t turn away from the road-erosion,
wisdom, and humility I detected on the members’ faces. Also, there’s something
endearing about a musician who threw on his boogie shoes in ‘95 and has been
playing, most of the time, since; in the process shrugging on a heroic and
inspiring role for 30- and 40-somethings.
‘Cause these days, as we all know, if you aren’t Tom Waits,
there are no romantic stories – those are just for and about artists between 14
and 28 years of age. While I doubt Terry and his crew envisioned themselves as grand,
older men of the road, the shoe’s starting to fit. I also love that a Pee-Wee
Herman doll dangles behind the driver’s seat in the band’s tour bus. And that
on its web page, instead of “merch”, the old-timey lettering reads, “General
Store.” And that in that store you can buy a foam fuck-you finger and a decal
or button of the angel/devil graphic that Terry drew in ’95, which has
subsequently been inked into hundreds of fans’ skin.
In a few years, the number of tat victims could rise to tens
of thousands. RWB’s MySpace currently lists 13,139 fans. NYC mover-and-shaker
Ken Davenport has documented the group’s saga in Never Enough: The Story of the Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of.
And late last month Fanatic rereleased the band’s independent, ’08 album, These Magnificent Miles (produced by Jamie Candoloro/REM, Willie Nelson),
which will also manifest as double-vinyl. The CD already includes a poster – tres après-1985.
If one of the original copies of TMM had landed in my player, who’s to say I wouldn’t already like
this band? I mean, Bruce Springsteen isn’t really my cup of tea, either. Yet
whenever he’s on TV, I’m like, “Gee, I hope he plays “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
and “Glory Days” – that’d be hot!“
Which is yet another reason to resist categorization, labeling
prior-to-investigation, and general narrow-mindedness. Any of those could keep
me from the highly-likely: RWB jammin’ with Creed, Springsteen, These United
States, and/or Crow at the Grammys one day. But whether the kit-driven dynamics
of “U.S. Bumper Sticker,” the Wave-inducing “Where You Wanna Go,” the poignant
“Finger in the Air,” the foot-stompin’ “New Cool,” or the grunge/C&W
marriage of “The Air I Breathe” will be featured, well… hey, I’m no psychic –
I’m just a fan of everything enduringly bright, promising and wonderful.
Find ‘em on the web: www.myspace.com/redwantingblue
[Photo Credit: S. Albanese]