Bodeans – Joe Dirt Car
Bursting out of Waukesha, WI in 1986 on the heels of the T Bone Burnett-produced Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, the BoDeans sounded like a trap door out of new-wave hell, back into a no-frills nirvana where acoustic guitars, harmony vocals and catchy three-chord melodies were the golden rule. Only trouble was, the BoDeans themselves didn’t seem to see it that way. Subsequent records dismissed Burnett’s bare-bones approach for a beefed-up sound that only served to starve the band’s music of its soul.
Thus, it’s a pleasant surprise to find this live, two-disc overview of the band’s career such a worthwhile investment of quality listening time. Culled from various live performances from ’89 to ’94, the disc captures the BoDeans in their best light — performing as a simple, straightforward rock band, with the emphasis on acoustic arrangements — and gathers most of their best material. What becomes clear here is that the band’s misguided efforts to reshape their sound never really got in the way of their ability to write good songs: Latter-day BoDeans tunes such as “Idaho”, “Paradise”, “Closer to Free” and “You Don’t Get Much” — the latter delivered stunningly as an acoustic-guitar-and-vocals-only ballad — measure up to the best stuff from Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.
But everything still comes back to that first album, and even the band seems to realize this, given that they include five songs from it here. All of them are highlights; perhaps the best of the bunch, and the most telling, is “Lookin’ For Me Somewhere,” which Sammy Llanas reveals in his introduction was written about Emmylou Harris. “So this is for T Bone, and Emmylou,” he concludes before launching into the song. Now there’s a dedication I’d love to see the BoDeans stand by for the rest of their career.