Joseph Plunket and the Weight – Seven Stories EP

I’ve been listening to Wilco lately and thinking it’s a damn shame. I’ve been getting my latest country doses from Chicago, of all places. What does the land of meat packers and wind know about the down-home “my wife ran away with my pick up and my dog, and I’m drunk on whiskey thinking about my washed up life’ vibe. True purists will cry that Wilco has a little too much “alt” in their country to be considered authentic. But being the populist that I am, I use Wilco as the barometer of contemporary country, as most everyone knows who they are. But to bring me back to my original point. What do all those bar rockers in big cities know about the hardships of life on the road and the land? Well, I guess they don’t know much about the true grit of country.
Joseph Plunket and the Weight, at least get it right geographically, residing in Georgia. Ok… Athens, Georgia, the not exactly hayseed college town of REM, but hell, they pull it off authenticity. They make me think a tumbleweed is blowing down Main Street at this very moment. Joseph Plunkett and the Weight, I’m sure, have not experienced the cliched hardships of every guitar-wielding honkey tonk, but then again JP&TW thankfully are not exactly cliché.
The whole vibe of this record is that of an intimate storyteller spinning his craft to a small, captive audience. One can only guess that is the inspiration behind the title, Seven Stories EP. The sound is stripped, bare, and sorrowful. The bare sound can be attributed to sparse arrangements, and perhaps the fact that this was recorded in a kitchen helps (though the production is not hurt by either aspect). The sorrow is easy to pinpoint, as Plunkett’s voice is wistful and sad. It’s a deep and powerful voice, with just the right amount of country twang that, when accented by a viola, could have even the toughest dude crying in his whiskey.
The subject matter of this record is the pain of love and loss. Universal themes of course, inherent to any genre of music, but specifically suited to JP& the Weight’s arrangements. They dutifully cover the Smiths’ classic, “There is a Light that Never Goes Out.” Covering the Smith’s songs is risky territory. Most groups take it over the top, failing so miserably. Indeed it is hard to reinterpret perfection. JP & the Weight fare pretty well, however, as they have deconstructed this song and made it one that could easily fit into their own repertoire.
Country is not everyone’s thing, but this is country done right. For anyone interested in broadening horizons, this is a worthy pick up.