Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The other day, in the Los Angeles Times, an article was printed about the possessions of the dead in LA County. For those people who are without any heirs or a will, who have died as close to alone as anyone can really get, all of their worldly things are assumed by the county and auctioned with the money raised used to pay for a proper burial. If the sum of the possessions/assets come up short of that cost, the deceased is cremated and the ashes are deposited, along with the ashes of others of the like - those who have outlived their kin, spouses, friends and progeny or maybe never really lived fully - in a sort of mass grave, forever mingled in uncertainty along with hundreds of other forgotten souls, nameless and faceless again. It's a fate that falls on many. It's a sad thing, but one that's ultimately so often out of our hands - our longevity and the longevity of others. That, along with the willingness of others to love us, the ability for us to warrant such love, such kinship is a mysterious fabric. It's woven over time and it can become unraveled quickly, but it's when it stays intact that everything seems different. It's the threat and the possibility that we can remain in control of our fates, our loves and the closeness that we have with and feel toward others that New Jersey band Roadside Graves is mesmerized by. It's as if the greatest challenge in the world, according to this electric and vibrant group of skuzzy, country rock loving gentlemen, is to maintain all of the love that you've ever earned and keep it close to the chest, reflecting on it and admiring it in its simplicity and through all of its complications. Do that and you'll be a rich man. Do that and you'll be a man who never has to worry about any unfortunate circumstances that could lead to being forgotten or leading to a nothingness in death - where we're just gone, gone, gone and all traces of our touch are blurred out. It seems like it's a fear for Roadside Graves lead singer John Gleason, a stiff-necked sparkplug of a man with a haggard voice of a guy twice his age, has in abundance. He stakes out with his lyrics to make an identity for this band as one that cherishes brotherhood and would love nothing more than to have you - stranger - pull up a chair next to them and help them finish off these pitchers of draft beer that aren't going to stop coming to the table until the tavern is shut down for the evening. It's a band that takes cues and inspiration from the majesties of Mother Nature and the intricate combinations of love that can form between two people, groups of people and their surroundings and life. Inside Gleason's words are such magical thoughts and images of normal people doing extraordinary things, even if they aren't ever going to make the news, even if they're remembered by that one other person. It's those acts - those tiny ones that speak the loudest and most intimate volumes that he and the band care the most about. They may be the most important actions that ever could be. The band's latest full-length, "My Son's Home," is a piece of American music that's not all that familiar, not all that prevalent. It's pure and honest, the work of a handful of young men who seem to know how they'd like to be remembered by all of the people who have ever known them and by those that they've had just the smallest amount of contact with. They lie there in the green grass. They gaze at the purpled mountains in the distance, towering above them and they listen closely as those they care about tell them their secrets, cry on their shoulders and experience pain and joy. It's all a part of what they live for and will live for until they can't live any longer. It's then when they'll know if they won or lost - when they've always got freshly cut flowers blanketing the tops of their graves.
Roadside Graves Official Site