Do I remember how to review a record? Let’s find out.
Josh Ritter put an album out this past April. Frank Turner has one out in August. I love Fever Breaks. I love the songs from No Man’s Land. It’s rare for one of those two songwriters to put out a record and not have it be my favorite of the year.
Carsie Blanton’s Buck Up is my favorite album of 2019 and it’s not even close.
This is the story of what a great promo photo can do. Back in … May? Late April? Before Orthodox Easter, anyway, Trav’s folks came up to visit us. We walked them back to their hotel after dinner, past a big tour bus in the Cat’s Cradle parking lot, which always makes me look up who’s playing the Cradle. Nobody I had heard of in that bus, but the next night, in the Back Room, it was a woman named Carsie Blanton, and her promo photo was fabulous. “Look how great this photo is,” I said to Trav. (I am, as you know, something of a connoisseur of both excellent and terrible musician promo photos.) “Let’s check out the album.”
So I pulled Buck Up up on Spotify, and we got about 30 seconds into the opening track, “Twister”, before we looked at each other and said, “Oh, hell, yes.” And I basically haven’t stopped listening to it since.
Buck Up is slinky without being slutty, politically pointed while still being sly enough that it didn’t offend some people it could have offended when I played it within their hearing. It bops and weaves along behind Blanton’s lyrics, which are world class word play – right up there with, say, Josh Ritter, who I’ve always believed uses words better than any other songwriter working today. (Please see my statement on it beggars the belief from Beast In Its Tracks.) It’s dirty and funny and flirty and outright sexy.
It makes me wish that I was still making mix tapes to seduce people (okay, no, it doesn’t, because dating was the worst and being married rocks) because I’d love to have dropped “Jacket” onto a CD for Trav that first year we were long distance:
I like your shirt
I like your jacket
I like to think about you when I …
Well, let’s leave that to your imagination. Or going to listen to Buck Up yourself, which you damn well should.
There have been plenty of records made since 2016 that have protested the current administration and state of the United States; they have all been great. But they have all mostly been serious, which is important, but Carsie Blanton has managed something extraordinary: she’s made a protest album that’s also fun.