Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The night before the Moondoggies were here for this taping, they'd spent the night in Charles City, Iowa, a city in the north central part of the state that no passers-by bunk down in. It's almost unheard of, but they'd been hauling from their homes in Seattle to hook up in the Midwest, for the start of a tour with Dawes and The Romany Rye, and they needed to rest for a spell. They got into this tiny city and asked the desk manager at the hotel where a good place to eat would be at that time of middle evening - between 6 pm and 10 pm newscasts. He asked them what they meant. They explained themselves a little more and it finally dawned on the man where he should send these out-of-towners for a slice of his hometown's finest cuisine. He told them, "You guys should go to the bowling alley down the street. They've got great food." Bewildered by the recommendation, they went along with it and phoned said lanes to see if they were still open. They were for another 10 minutes is all. So, the Moondoggies hit the convenience store for a dinner of Combos and preheated pizza, jalapeno poppers and cheeseburgers, before getting a good night's rest and traveling the final few hours to us here in Rock Island. The entire point of this story is to emphasize that they were in the middle of something resembling nowhere, a place where the recommended place to grab a bite is the bowling alley and yet, compared to the expansive landscapes that the band seems to build its lyrical and melodic sets around, Charles City, Iowa, was closer to Manhattan, or at least Omaha, than it would ever get credit for.
The Moondoggies write music that takes us deep into the fields, where the stalks of grain or the wild grasses of a prairie reach to above our heads and we're hearing the sound of a hissing wind and, if our senses were more attuned, we'd smell the dirty fur and feathers of all kinds of hidden animals, out there with us. It's a feeling of being lost in our own thoughts - or lost in their thoughts. They've kindly built a little fire for us and they've also very kindly called upon their old friend, the full moon, to provide us with a night light to shine down so we can see where we're stepping, for the most part, and where we're pissing, when the urge to do so overcomes us. There is a softness in the group's rustic drumming up of the echoes of the soul that are floating off of the nail pegs of their barn rafters. They feel as if they're moving towards us and then into our eyes and ears, like phantoms that pass through us like invisible butter knives, slicing us through the abdomen, getting at our guts. Both "Tidelands" and their previous effort, "Don't Be A Stranger," are albums that sound like the silhouettes of lonely trees and the footsteps of someone or something that we're dreading, walking somewhere behind us, keeping a reasonable distance, coming out of the shadows from the middle of nowhere. It feels as if, no matter how isolated we might get, how much we try to get away, the footsteps that follow us through these songs will one day catch us and then what?