The Baseball Project
Volume Two: High and Inside
Yep Roc Records
By Scott Roberts
Every spring, many of us look forward to the possibility of new love in bloom, enjoy basking in the slowly warming temperatures, or dread the re-emergence of all those pesky seasonal allergies. Some of us also look forward to the annual return of baseball season, with its rich traditions and near-mythological tales rich with colorful characters, heroes, and villains. And though less than half as old as the game, rock ‘n’ roll can be described in the same way, and this spring, these two traditions, tainted and tarnished as each may be, blend beautifully on Volume Two: High and Inside, the new CD from The Baseball Project, one of several musical ventures by the always-busy Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon.
Volume Two… continues where 2008’s Volume 1: Frozen Ropes & Dying Quails left off, but this time the approach is much more musically varied. Mid-tempo rockers like opener “1976” (an ode to Detroit’s oddball pitching phenom from that year, the late Mark Fidrych) and “The Straw That Stirs The Drink” (musically capturing the swagger of its subject, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; its title taken from a typically arrogant remark Jackson once made in an interview), are nicely augmented by forays into other genres. The slow, country shuffle of “Pete Rose Way,” to the Beach Boys-on-speed sound of the goofily catchy “Ichiro Goes To The Moon” — a highlight of the band’s 2009 tour, and one of seven songs sung by guitarist McCaughey — give this record a bit more flavor than the previous one. McCaughey also shines on “Fair Weather Fans,” where his vocal on the first verse eerily channels Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott (drummer Pitmon and guitarist Wynn also take a verse, and bassist Buck even makes a rare vocal appearance, reciting the words “It’d be the Washington Senators”), and the haunting closer “Here Lies Carl Mays,” the instrumentally stark closing track, a regretful lament told from the point of view of the ghost of the title character who accidentally killed a batter with one of his pitches.
The CD is also distinguished by several guest appearances (Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan), most notably by The Hold Steady’s Chris Finn who sings lead and wrote the lyrics for “Please Don’t Call Them Twinkies,” the biographically accurate (and pleasantly rocking) history of the Minnesota Twins.
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy The Baseball Project’s Volume Two: High and Inside, but a love of the game and an appreciation for its arcane history would certainly add to your enjoyment of this winning set of songs.
The Baseball Project begins its Spring Training Tour in Atlanta at Star Bar on March 11, and in Athens at The 40 Watt on March 12. Tickets for the Atlanta show are available below.