I’ve always loved the Blues. I love the wailing guitars and gritty catharsis. If there was ever a musical genre that celebrated those aspects of the human condition that seem decidedly UN-celebratory, it’s the Blues. Inherent in the Blues is that rarest of experiences in our modern world; a shared experience. When played well, the Blues exhibits a spontaneity and imperfection that allows the common to become transcendent.
I’ve always enjoyed the Blues, but, at the same time, felt sheepishly inauthentic as a result. What business did I have sporting the White Guy Overbite while lurching arhythmically around my living room? I was a white guy, and I was in a living room. Surely, there were folks who had it much worse than me; that particular musician for instance. For some reason, it seemed that it was well and good to appreciate other musical genres, but when it came to the Blues, I wasn’t commiserating but rather co-opting true misery.
But the fact is that we all get our share in time. Sometimes the source of our pain is the inexorable march of time, the love that slips through our fingers or the missed epiphany, and such sources don’t discriminate between race, creed or economic strata.
It’s also natural that the Blues evolve along with its purveyors. Even today, when a man spreads his wings, circumstance may clip them. When the shape of modern life alters its acoustics, the resonance of the music is affected, too. Such is the case with Nation Sack, the new, self-titled recording by guitarist and Gristleman, Greg Koch, vocalist Malford Milligan, bassist Tom Good and drummer Del Bennett. While they feed from the roots of the Blues, Nation Sack is not content to remain earthbound. The hooks soar to new heights and the lyrics speak to today’s everyman.
Traditionally, the Nation Sack was a small Mojo bag that was only carried by women. It was used in spells of female domination over men. It was also mentioned in Bluesman Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen. There’s no doubt that today’s man is bewitched, if not directly by a Hoodoo Princess, then surely by the sedimentary pressure of manhood itself.
Like love, what it means to be a man evolves over the course of a man’s life; tall and stong, a virile lover, a provider, stoic in suffering, a sage and dignified in death. Nation Sack seems to occur at a Mid-life Crossroads (a fine title for their next album if I say so myself). An honest assessment of the road less traveled or the well-worn path chosen so many years ago. Even in health there is death, success has a cost and while sometimes life is tedious, there is often perfection in repetition. These are all themes explored within the 12 tracks.
It’s been a very long time since, for me, an album was so inclusive and immersive. From the first playing, I was transformed from observer to participant, and I highly recommend it. Give it a listen, then give it a home. If you are a male, age 35-55, and you purchase this recording and decide you don’t like it, I urge you to contact me and I’ll take it off your hands. But I doubt the Mojo in this Nation Sack will let that happen.