Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
At the very end of the song "Gramaw and Grampaw," from the Chatanooga, Tennessee band Bohannons' record, "Days of Echo," Matt Bohannon produces an aside, or a dedication to his grandparents, saying, "I love you gramaw and grampaw." It's a sweet gesture and it comes with little doubt, as most sentiments toward grandparents go. By the time most grandchildren know them, they've been beaten down by life and work and parenthood so badly that they're shadows of what they might have been in their more chipper years, when they might have been meaner and stricter, tougher and less forgiving. They likely were completely different people and then they grew into gramaw and grampaw, the two elderly people who offer too many sugared treats and have nothing but good things to say about everyone. They're almost too old for meanness or they could care less anymore. The song, however, calls into question just exactly who the grandmother and grandfather actually were as people, what they did and if some of the stories they've heard from outside the family were true. It's a song about getting down to the true being of a legacy, of confirming or denying the many sides that people wear throughout their lives - the ones they show, or the one's that were shown and have since been packed away on moth balls.
Bohannon sings, "Was grandpa a hero in the war?/Was he brave?/Did grandma dig out his grave?/Or did he die drinking alone and afraid?/Is it really true what they say?" He asks a little bit later if gramaw got cancer and if her doctors got paid. The song concludes and you realize that he didn't know a thing about his grandparents. He didn't even know if his grandmother had died of cancer. He knew nothing of the validity of the drunken stories he'd heard about his grandfather, but liked to think that the war stories were the realities. All the same, he tells his grandparents that he loves them, as the song rolls to a stop. There's no shortage of these melancholic urges to soften the past, or try to soften the present - whichever will help more - on "Days of Echo."
It's in the bloodstream of the Bohannons and in a sound that emphasizes that everyone seems to be getting through all of their problems, so what's the big deal? It's about the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that sniff around and take their prisoners and crown their winners, whenever they want. It's about embracing the ways that people are pulled. It's about being one of the buffalo and being one of the buffalo killers and some days being unable to tell the two apart. There's loneliness and pain all over the songs and the decent people are just as in need of salvation as the wrecked ones are. Everyone's got their debts and everyone's got their skeletons. They can all leave sweet scents trailing behind them, as Bohannon sings, "It seems the train has left it's tracks/She has rode right onto her back/Again/I love that sound." Something bad has happened, but what else is new?