Great Lakes at Stereo Embers

Perhaps the greatest crime of many perpetuated by such splashy celebrations of glossy mediocrity like the recent Grammys broadcast (the astonishing Kendrick Lamar appearance and a handful of others – the Hamilton bit, the heartfelt BB King tribute – notwithstanding) is the leveling – nay, dulling – impact it tends to have on the sharpness of our greater culture’s receptivity to not only what’s possible in music but what’s actually happening out there in the vast provinces while the assembled glitterati and the millions watching risk shoulder injury patting themselves on the back over baubles and spangly tripe. Not sure how it works but somehow being blinded by celebrity and the attendant narcissism has the residual effect of a kind of clotted-ear deafness as well. A shame on a nation-sized scale, really, as the volume of what’s-being-missed, all of it deeply deeply woven into the American fabric, is, shall we say, off the charts. As an example, let’s start here, with Great Lakes’ fifth album Wild Vision, just released in January on Loose Trucks.

Strong as those inferences may be to these ears, they’re nonetheless nothing more than twinges, innate suggestions, nuantial reference points to make you the reader perk up your ears. I hear all kinds of records coming at me from all corners and it’s not exactly frequent that a collection of songs lands on my stereo that flows with such effortless, mastery-bordering facility that one could easily imagine a modern-day songwriters-in-the-round in some sunny backyard (with storm clouds bunching on the horizon, of course), your Justin Vernons, Sam Beams whatever, all going respectfully quiet, which is to say struck enviously dumb, as this guy Crum unloads gem after gem, their multiplicity of facets only outdone by the cast of canonized familiarity that shines within them. Songwriting-wise, Ben Crum has been heading for this apogee for some while, and on Wild Vision it would seem he’s reached it, a mere twenty years down the road. The mantle of being one of this country’s finest now firmly rests upon his shoulders. As proven here, he can handle it, and certainly deserves it.

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