An album of sincere, candid and exquisitely delivered tales from the American mid-west.
My Politic comprise Kaston Guffey and Nick Pankey, an acoustic duo, who grew up together in the small town of Ozark in Christian County, Missouri located in the Ozark Mountains. The Ozark Mountains are set apart physically from their surroundings by rugged terrain and sociologically by inhabitants who profess political and religious conservatism; in the last presidential election less than 25% of the inhabitants of Christian County voted for the Democrats. Guffey and Pankey re-located to Nashville over seven years ago, but this record, their tenth, revisits their roots. ‘Missouri Folklore: Songs & Stories From Home’ pays tribute to the people and places in the Ozarks, both the good and the bad.
The 14 finely crafted songs on this album are an honest examination of the complex webs that people weave, set against the monotony of everyday life in small town, mid-west America. As Guffey says, “There are songs about judgment, existentialism, forgiveness, love, death, growing, and healing. It’s a lot of material focused on the nuance and mundanity, in some sense, of being a person”. The songs all feature acoustic guitars with the addition, on most tracks, of fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro and the occasional bass. The instruments produce a rich, intricately-layered soundscape.
The album opens with a short instrumental ‘Missouri Waltz’, which is followed by ‘What A Life’ which reflects on youthful pursuits such as recalling baseball stats and counting cars on long journeys. ‘Buzzards On A Power Line’ brings a painfully honest perspective on the challenges of beating addiction, an issue that afflicts not only Missouri but much of rural America. The protagonist, who’s struggling to stay clean, returns to their home town where the people are ‘Like buzzards on a power line, Waiting patiently to take their turn, And pick apart what’s left behind, And I ain’t dead yet’, willing then to relapse. It’s a condemnation of the small mindedness that can exist in communities anywhere.
‘Albuquerque’ is an autobiographical song which recounts Guffey’s sister’s battle with heroin addiction. She finds herself ‘strung out in prison in Albuquerque’. Fortunately she received ‘life-saving treatment for an age-old condition’ and ‘she’s come to believe, that she’s somebody worthy’ who’s ‘a long way from the bottom in Albuquerque’. It’s a touching, heartfelt song.
Not all the songs focus on the darker side of life, ‘Eminence’ recounts tales of youthful mischief and the search for adrenaline rushes by the river. ‘Maybe It’s Love’ looks at various characters’ searches for a soul mate. ‘Gina & Leroy’ is the everyday tale of a couple struggling to pay the bills but doing their best to keep their love and ‘dream alive for one more night’, amidst the constraints that life has imposed on them.
‘Missouri Folklore: Songs & Stories From Home’ combines fine musicianship with perceptive, reflective and provocative lyrics. My Politic have produced a very fine record which provides intelligent, thoughtful insights not only into their home state but also the complexities and paradoxes of what it is to be human.