Feral Fire sounds like what Wilco should be sounding like today.
Feral Fire marks the sixth album from the Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based collective known as Glossary. Over the course of the previous quintet of releases, the band has covered a lot of ground, from Thin Lizzy-esque rockers to more pastoral acoustic fare. There was a pretty high standard of quality about their songs, but the economics of being a touring entity kept Glossary from touring on the level of peers like Drive-By Truckers and Lucero. Both bands have built a devoted fanbase through tireless touring, an often thankless endeavor that ultimately paid off for both franchises.
Glossary has shared stages with Drive-By Truckers, but savvy Lucero fans know that the bond between the two bands goes that much deeper. Glossary guitarist Todd Beene has played steel for Lucero for the last couple of years, enjoying a high profile slot in one of America’s finest bands. Lucero’s rise has afforded them the luxury of their own label imprint (through their label deal with East/West) called Liberty and Lament. The Memphis quintet release their own records on the label and have made Glossary the first signing. Feral Fire is the first release from the newly forged union, and it is a shot straight out of the park.
Opening with a nasty little romp called “Lonely Is a Town”, Feral Fire posits the question: What would Thin Lizzy sound like if they were from south of the Mason-Dixon line and raised on a healthy diet of X and Stax records? Understand that it’s an alchemic amalgamation. Lead singer Joey Kneiser has tapped into a deep Southern well of song to conjure up 11 of the best examples of American rock music you’ll hear today. Feral Fire sounds like what Wilco should be sounding like today. Kneiser’s wife Kelly shares vocal duties in the band, adding a pure alto that proves a wonderful foil to Joey’s rougher voice. Fans of Oxford, Michigan, roots trio Blue Mountain will find much to enjoy here. Kneiser says that Feral Fire references the desire inside most individuals to find their purpose in life, and that the songs are about trying to find that purpose. Whether or not he achieves that goal is relative, but the quality of the songs is not. Feral Fire is the best Glossary record in an ever-growing line of great underappreciated records.
Glossary made their last record, The Better Angels of Our Nature, available for free on their website. It was a brave move, especially considering that it was easily one of the best records of 2007. Fans and critics took notice, and safe money is on most—if not all—of the people who enjoyed Better Angels ponying up in short order for Feral Fire. Aided and abetted in the proceeding by producer/Centro-matic drummer Matt Pence, there really is not a bad song on the record. My pick for best track is probably “No Guarantees”, but it really is hard to choose a best track from the 11 in contention. Even the closing track, “Hope and Peril”, sung by Todd Beene, is a strong contender. Whether rocking or trodding on a more acoustic path, Feral Fire establishes Glossary as one of the brightest stars in the music of today.