What happens when a few baseball-addicted musicians get together to make an album? The answer is, a totally fresh and inspired collective called the Baseball Project.
This super-group — or maybe a bunch of versatile utility players would be a more apt description — has just released their second album, Volume 2: High and Inside. Returning for a “second season” of play are first-year members Pete Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), and Linda Pitmon (Miracle 3, Golden Smog). This time around they are joined by Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo) and Chris Funk and John Moen of The Decemberists.
As both the band’s name and album title would indicate, the songs are all odes to favorite baseball players (“Ichiro Goes to the Moon” and “Buckner’s Bolero”, teams (“Don’t Call them Twinkies”), or baseball traditions (“Chin Music” and “Fair Weather Fans”). Some of the other songs are about players that these musicians grew up idolizing (Pete Rose, Tony Conigliaro, Mark Fidrych) back in the 60s or 70s, but one other song, “Panda and the Freak”, honors current players on the San Francisco Giants
Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, that should not detract from appreciating this album. In fact, it’s hard not to get caught up in the infectious spirit of these songs. No matter what the lyrical content, this is simply good, fun music. But for baseball fans, especially, the lyrics will provide many smiles. The Baseball Project’s first effort, Volume One: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails, is also a fine album, some of the songs so wonderfully silly that they would leave a smile on my face. With songs about players such as Ted “Fucking” Williams, Satchel Paige, Harvey Haddix, Curt Flood, and Fernando Valenzuela, you can’t help but grin. Baseball is life, indeed!