We all know how tough it can be to get someone a really great gift, especially if you don’t want to just order some mass consumer product from an online mega-retailer. This year, though, Kieran Cleary has a locally-oriented solution — give the gift of music. One piece of music in particular, in fact: the latest album from Harrisonburg’s The Steel Wheels.
Maybe you, like me, are at a loss when looking ahead to the coming holiday gift-giving season. You might be a millennial who basically chilled your way through Thanksgiving, watching people cook, almost raising a hand to volunteer help with something — anything — only to put it back in your lap and keep observing, feeling progressively heavier even before you actually ate the turkey.
You might have taken the alt-kid route on Black Friday, choosing to buy nothing instead of participating in America’s biggest shopping day. But now you’re limping toward Christmas with somewhat empty pockets and few prospects for obvious gifts. Well, my advice to you would be to step outside yourself and give the gift of music this holiday season.
One option I recommend is the brand new album Everyone A Song, Volume 2, by Harrisonburg’s The Steel Wheels. They’re a soft-fiddle-rock group who put together this album as a collection of songs commissioned by sponsors. The second volume of this sort they’ve released, they say the project is back by popular demand. I like it for a holiday gift for pretty much any music fans on your list.
The wide range of inspirations for the commissioned songs collected here keeps the flow upbeat and joyful. There are lots of family-minded tracks. “We are where you come from,” they sing soothingly on this album’s introductory tune, “Where I’m From.” By track two, “Time Is All I Need,” the steady plunking march of deep, warm bass and drums is brightening my chilly post-Thanksgiving week. “Mark On Me” has a distinctive intro and momentous refrain. Listen for this one on radio stations as a compelling, mysterious door into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once beyond that portal, you’ll be transported by the song and its prominent fiddle to a safe and honest place.
The family theme continues throughout. “Adventures of Grace and Henry” is bittersweet and hopeful, lamenting the pandemic’s as-yet-unknown effects on kids. There’s even a song for pets, “Lifeline,” where the singer talks of a time when he “carried a snake in my sweatshirt,” reminding me of all the crazy childhood experiences I wish I could go back to now. “Where Our Future Begins” is a song written for a local Boys And Girls Club chapter.
I really enjoy the way these collaborative songs are all performed by a single singer, over music that is kept both simple and sweet. This album gently reminds listeners of the most important thing we have during this season: each other.