Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kneaded & Thrown


Roscoe Selley

Kneaded and Thrown

Roscoe Selley is one of those fortunate souls who actually believe in the power of music to bring love and peace into the mix of this crazy world. Just ask Madeline Albright, former Secretary of state for the hairy palmed, love doctor himself President Bill Clinton. Selley was 32 years old before he played one note in public. His father played campfire harp when the family took camping trips to fake wilderness roads. It struck a chord for young Roscoe who managed to mess with the harmonica when he was just a whippersnapper. He wasn’t serious about it but it filled a need, memories function well in that regard; and it was Robert Barkley’s radio show out of Central Michigan that inspired Roscoe to find out what the buzz was all about. He learned about Little Walter, Junior Wells and other prominent bluesmen. He was a true music lover who listened to James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Paul Simon before he dedicated his emerging interest in the blues. He developed his craft by playing in bars and clubs, learning funky blues, rock & roll and folk music.  He was a member of Blues Controversy, an incredible horn-based band with incredible lead singers, first with Sharrie Williams and then with Caitlin Berry. When that came to an untimely end, Roscoe joined forces with Michael and Scott Robertson, a three piece with incredible harmonies that eventually added bass player Keith Carolan and a full time drummer. The result was breathtaking. They called themselves Maybe August. They developed a back lot storyline that included actress Halle Berry. I bought it hook line and sinker (not) but others did and the rumor gained a little steam until it dissipated in the mist. After two incredible albums the mighty Maybe August called it quits; a sign of the time. I grieved the loss as it was symptomatic of the entire scene in Mid-Michigan. So I was excited when heard that Roscoe was in the studio.

Here’s my take on it…

Kneaded and Thrown might just  be the best album of the season. The music is full of earthy resonance, splitting genres and roasting chestnuts. Selley has a cast of the usual suspects from ragamuffins and straight up turnaround buskers who helped bridge the creative process through debate and compromise. The harmonies are honest, a little sloppy but that’s the charm. It’s not a pro-tooled piece of belly button fluff. It’s like when Danko and Manuel squeaked out the harmonies on The Weight. This disc is a gospel of truth, aging, love and regret. It’s real and wistful without being trite or maudlin. I love Roscoe Selley for all this and more.

 He’s found his voice.

Carpenter opens the disc. Selley’s melancholy harp is accompanied by Michael Robertson’s guitar. It gently caresses the lyrics;

All of my choices/have narrowed down here/all of these voices in my ear.

Roscoe has found his true voice. It’s not so pretty but its nuance and worn. It recalls the Beau Brummel’s Sal Valentino singing “Long Walking Down to Misery.”

Roscoe asks a spiritual question;

I didn’t ask for this/I don’t know what it means/Am I a spirit or a man.

Robertson’s supple guitar and Selley’s harp passages ring out a contemplative conversation that no one will hear.

What I Was Given resonates with an acoustic parade of phrasings that introduce Selley’s backlot memories; it may be that melancholia may be an honest appraisal for a reasonable man. Selley’s wistful harp sets the tone and Mike Thomas’ organ enriches the sonic landscape

There will never be and ending to this struggle

There is no ending to this live, our love

This growing up is never going to end

Truth is I’d do it all again


Hey, Amy aka “Everybody has a Story of Pain”

Selley’s lyrics carry some ambivalence. It’s like a Catholic confessional that wasn’t heard or absolved causing imperfect connections. Close harmonies give it a cool nuance that scaffolds the mixed emotions

Hey Amy, I know you’ve been hurt…Hey Amy – we’ll make it work

Ask me any question – I won’t lie…never needed an alibi

You know I’m in all the way/If you let us survive/

If you let me be who I am/Amy I can be your guy

Turned is the most personal song Selley has released to date. It is a signature theme about childhood’s end and adolescent rebellion, a developmental paradox in which we push away our parents at the time we need them the most. Our fear is that growing up means selling out; instead it’s a middle path and rapproachment is around the corner to offer a hand of love. Roscoe nailed the conflict and the necessary losses that are required; a cool accapella opening segued to Roscoe’s big full bodied harp playing and masterful unison singing from the band


Everybody’s course was easy to see /get married/have kids/make a family

Spend your life working for the Dow Company – But that never was for me

Feeling like a lucky man

Cause I turned…



Home is the anchor to this collection. It has everything from cool country pickin’ and some incredible fiddle work from Andy Rogers. Selley knows full well people who sacrificed for the sale of their art and it becomes a commodity to be co-opted, pre-empted and recycled. The lyrics reveal a personal truth;


I’ve been handled like clay/I’ve been kneaded, I’ve been thrown

No I’m molded/into a fragile grace

I long to go home/But the people are all gone

And Home is much more than a place


For Selley the regrets ebb and flow like a bottle pushed by the strength of a wave and a lonely truth prevails…the older I get, the less I know. It is the true measure of our wisdom!



7am begs the question why were we born if we aren’t forever? Out of an entire disc of incredible music and lyrical honesty, this song is a testimony to enduring friendship and love. This songs is tribute to Selley’s dear friend Chris Michalek who died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage. The lyrics are simply stunning;


7am…and dark as dark can be

Now is forever for me/one brilliant flash

Then eternity

All I am ever going to be

Peace, Peace


Recoil jumped out with feedback and an ominous minor chord from Robertson and a Guess Who turnaround (similar to the bridge on American Woman).This song has an-anti war vibe;


I only did what I was trained to do

And people said I was a hero

Didn’t know that I’d been wound too

By the recoil...


In a Little While brings this disc full circle. Roscoe opens the track with a melancholy harp tones with Robertson joining in with some sweet economical notations, exceptional restraint wherein less is more. This is a quiet song and Roscoe is singing as if he’s sitting on the couch with a few good friends. Selley is a  master of his craft. I’ve never heard such sad beauty. The music is the perfect accompaniment to the lyrics;

There is so little time/and no certain path

To get it right/ to make it last

Wish it didn’t go so fast…

So little time


 Amen, imperfect beauty,  an incredible album





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