Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The Kernal's newest album, "Farewellhello," is packaged in a capped beer bottle. Down in its cylindrical belly is a rolled up paper with a download code on it. To get to the goods, you're supposed to smash the bottle against something hard, sending the brown glass cracking and scattering everywhere. You're not supposed to coax the paper out through the lip for it would be something of a copout.
The songs on the record, by the newest pride of Jackson, Tennessee (the birthplace of Carl Perkins), are those sensitive to the fact that there's a motive to downing the contents of a brown bottle and then laying that bottle to rest with something of a pleasant destruction. The bottle shouldn't get placed so gently in the recycling bin, but it should ALWAYS be thrillingly smashed at the end of the last swig or pull.
The Kernal sings, "Come on hard times/Make your best move," and it's the theme that roils through these honky-tonk songs that present these honest depictions of what stakes claim to the gritty hearts of most. These are stories of more losses than wins, but no one is going to claim that they're suffering any more than anyone else. It's just the way it is. Everyone's drinking together -- toasting the same small victories and washing away the same or similarly bumpy pasts.
Many of these stories seem to be about the ruts and the ridges, the spinning wheels of unhappiness and semi-happiness (conditions that share a fine line). The Kernal sums it up beautifully, singing, "Wherever I've been's where I wanna be/And I'm looking to the road, sky-high from my balcony/And there's a voice cryin' in the wilderness/And it's wise and laced with lies/He says sit back down and push your button."
So follows the Daytrotter Dream Interview in which The Kernal creates and then fields the hardest-hitting questions he's ever faced:
Q: What is one fond musical memory from childhood?
A: It takes a great deal of fortitude to stay up all night roasting a freshly-bled calf on an old box spring underneath a Pinewood, TN moon while your buddy passes out on the flea market concrete floor, only to wake up with cotton-mouth to find a hot dog shoved down the front of his pants and children hopping over the sad scene: Almost as much fortitude as it takes to waltz into Roy Acuff's dressing room with twin 4 year old boys for autographs and a handshake. But my old dad was a stout-hearted gem who could do both without second-guessing a bit of it. My pop played bass at the Opry for 28 years and the two things i really remember other than meeting Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez are him walking me and my twin brother out to some circle on the Opry stage well before the show started and having us stand together inside of it for a moment in silence. He then said, "Boys, that's where Elvis stood...and Hank Williams". He probably mentioned more but I don't recall. The other memory was sauntering into Roy Acuff's dressing room while he ate Keebler Sweet Spot cookies grinning as only a man with his history could. He was gentle. And seemed so happy. His aura is something I've never forgotten.
Q: Do you think that was really Crispin Glover on Letterman in 1987 or was he on LSD?
A: I hope that it was Crispin. I'm more into hoping than thinking, and I'm glad Crispin has given me the freedom (even after all these years) to hope rather than simply to think. Although thinking IS necessary, it should only be exercised alongside some sort of hope. If you twisted my arm I'd say it was Crispin's attempt to unorthodoxly psychoanalyze Letterman. And I believe it failed.
Q: Who is your favorite MINOR character in a movie/what's your favorite sinew in the human body?
Most definitely it is Toby Radloff from American Splendor. It's ok to be you, my chums. Just take a tip from ole Toby and be done with it huh? My favorite sinew is by far the Patellar Sinew because the knee joint is the most unstable joint in the body, but pulling of the quadriceps muscle on the patellar tendon results in knee extension, and this is key when kicking ass.