Glossary: How We Handle Our Midnights (Undertow)

Glossary is southern rock at its best—a hybrid that holds fast to the attributes of classic country music while not so much celebrating the southern lifestyle as pointing out the holes that are there.

CDs in our mailbox are always a reason for excitement, but the little package from Nashville put me over the top. Inside was the brand new CD from Glossary, How We Handle Our Midnights. Last year’s EP, Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, was a true gem. It contained five songs that covered the wide and very difficult terrain of loss, want, desire, and struggle with grace and confidence. It stayed in the player for quite some time, and with each play, a little more nuance came to light.

On their new release (which features songs from DFAGH), lead singer and songwriter Joey Kneiser unspools songs with complex thoughts that are subtle and encompassing, as in “Remember Me Tomorrow Tonight,” where he plaintively sings: “Turn the radio up tonight, so I can watch you dance across the sky,/and open up the car doors wide, so the music can feel the night,/tomorrow if I run out of life, remember me how I was tonight,/just so scared, but still alive and that makes everything all right.” He writes superb songs about the loss of youth, dreams of escape, and the desire to climb up and out of the depths…said depths of poverty, depression, loss.

Kneiser is ably backed by a fantastic band featuring Bingham Barnes (bass), Greg Jacks (guitar, vocals), Kelly Smith (vocas, percussion), Todd Beene (guitar, piano), and J.D. Reager (drums). The standout effect on this album, though, is Kneiser’s voice. Like Neil Young (whom they covered in an appearance at Frederick’s last winter), Kneiser uses his voice to ably communicate and give his words a stark dignity and a weight that is shattering in many places. He delivers lyrics like knives, whether they are meant to hurt or defend. On several songs, he is balanced nicely by Smith. “Lonesome Stray” paints Kneiser as a vagabond searching for love, and Smith, with honey-sweet vocals, offers a home, even if it requires some compromise.

Glossary is southern rock at its best—a hybrid that holds fast to the attributes of classic country music while not so much celebrating the southern lifestyle as pointing out the holes that are there. They do so with a poetry that is not seen as often as it should be in music. How We Handle Our Midnights offers the warm southern breezes of lazy back roads and the allure of escape. It is a world etched in love and despair.

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