Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The myriad of things that must ramble through Chris Sand's mind when he's out there on the road must be so intense that there's no way to calculate them. They must buzz in and then blur away just as the scenery outside the windows of his 18-wheeler whizzes past him when he's on a long haul. It can't be all that much different for a man driving a semi-tractor trailer as it is a troubadour bumping from one heartless city to the next, playing and singing his songs to the soused and unresponsive. He must drop off a delivery or finish a set and then climb back into the seat at any hour of the day or night, fire up the waiting engine and find the nearest on-ramp for the interstate that's going to get him to where his itinerary tells him he needs to be next.
Sand, or Sandman The Rappin' Cowboy as he's going to be heard here, must let the mundane, the dramatic, the quirky and the melancholic all swim up there together, right on the other side of his fleshy windshield, creating his own amusement park for the stewing tales of a drifter and a man behind the demanding wheel. He's out there on the grind, chewing up the concrete and asphalt, going crazier the longer he's away from home, the more talk radio he lets into the cab of his semi. It must be pretty easy to forget who you are a bit, when you're out there, lonely on the road. Or, what it might be is that it's easier to be someone else, or to fake it. It's easier to sink into a depiction of a world, where everyone's out to work you over and there's a horse graveyard in your mind.
The Cowboy writes songs about good girls and bad girls and about the white highway lines that keep them separated. He writes about the hard luck and being without any luck at all. These are stories that barely have any glory in them whatsoever. They are without much luster, instead smacking of the simple strangulation that gets to us when we're just worked to death, when we're just unable to get out from underneath all the thumbs. They are stories about taking all kinds of lumps, then getting evicted on top of it. Sand sings, "But money don't mean nothin' when a poor boy's heart gets broken/Well, I tried to cook a meal/I burnt the bacon/I tried to frame a wall/But it's misshapen/And I tried to call her bluff/But she ain't faking/A go easy on me boss/My heart is breakin'." It's one of those moments where just a little bit of mercy will go a long way and this guy is asking for it from the one person who puts him through the most hours of suffering every week. It tells you all you need to know about how beat up this guy is and even more about how many additional beatings he's going to absorb before he dies.