Americana's Grace Basement Hangs Out at 'Mississippi Nights'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Grace Basement's Mississippi Nights gets its title from a much loved yet long-defunct venue that was torn down and turned into a casino parking lot.

Mississippi Nights
Grace Basement


19 Jan 2018

St. Louis doesn't attract many touring artists. Really. Go search some bands you love and their touring schedule. It's hit or miss if they make it to St. Louis, mostly miss. For a music loving resident, this is an eternal annoyance. Add to this that the city is a perennial underdog in the arts. Sure, there is always amazing art being made, but the national eye does not turn this way. The new release by the St. Louis band Grace Basement is called Mississippi Nights and most certainly gets its title from a much loved yet long-defunct venue that was torn down and turned into a casino parking lot. How fitting for a St. Louis band, huh?

The titular venue was around from 1979 to 2007. It held about a thousand people, so it was a niche place, but it housed the cult bands or the up and coming indie artists. It's where the Decemberists, the Thermals, or Sufjan Stevens on the Illinois tour would came through, so there's some heavy feelings to be had. It was the only St. Louis spot Nirvana ever played. The Replacements opened for X there. Basically, the fact that it was torn down to make way for a parking lot left the city quite salty.

Because it would be a horrible idea, Kevin Buckley's Grace Basement doesn't attempt to address the lost venue in any direct way. The title just floats there as a frame for a nice little set of songs, showcasing what the city can offer up if given a chance.

And a nice set of songs it is. Grace Basement are essentially a roots rock band, with the occasional dash of power pop sensibility. The middle portion of the album, especially tracks "Slowly Causing (Everything You've Wanted to Come Undone)" and "Standing on a Corner" have a distinct taste of Exile on Main Street Rolling Stones, while tracks like "East for You/Easy for Me" almost sound like Two Door Cinema Club with their sugary melodies and bright, chiming guitars. The rest of the album take turns between the two.

A repeated theme would be that of being broken. The final tracks are titled "My Ruin" and "Broken Pair of Speakers". It seems dour at first, but with loss comes rebirth. With closer inspection of the lyrics, the album being titled after a defunct venue seems ironic. "My Ruin" evokes the image of a life in shambles but perches some white doves on top for good measure. On the closer, "Broken Pair of Speakers", Buckley sings, "I just need something new. I don't think I can get it from you."

But the most telling of Buckley's mindset might be from the opening track, "Rising Sun", where he states, "I'm tired of feeling numb, paying dues for everyone. Just when you think I'm done, come up like the rising sun." So, if the title evokes nostalgia at first, a good listen to the album Mississippi Nights should change your mind. It's about making something new, breathing new life into what was lost. Next time, let's hope it's more exciting than a parking lot.

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