If I were a television executive, I'd be telling myself to create a spinoff of Verse Chorus Verse; a spinoff dedicated to all the times I reference music I discovered or re-discovered while watching The West Wing. Yesterday, I talked about hearing "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits for the first time. Earlier this week, I got a new CD because of a song I heard playing in the background of a different episode of the once great series.
I've seen nearly every episode of The West Wing multiple times by now, especially the first four seasons when it was at its height. A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in our living room working on a project for work. I put a West Wing DVD in the player and had it on in the background to keep me company. I've seen this particular episode (the two part "Manchester" episodes at the beginning of Season 3) many times but it wasn't until this particular viewing that the song playing in the background of a scene at a Manchester, N.H. bar caught my attention.
I once again thanked the heavens that I live in the time of Google. After about five minutes of research, I found out this song was called "Instead" and was by a band called Abandon Jalopy. A few more minutes of research revealed Abandon Jalopy wasn't so much a song but was actually an album by former Blind Melon guitarist Brad Smith. Most of the surviving members of Blind Melon make a guest appearance on the record Mercy at one point or another. I was intrigued. I was frustrated. The album was available on iTunes but was long ago put out of print. I stewed about whether to download it or try and find it used somewhere online. After a week or two of listening to the 30 second soundclip on iTunes, I broke down and bought the CD through an Amazon seller for $5. Money well spent.
"Instead" feels like multiple songs spliced together. There are these distinct sounds and while calling the sections "movements" might be a bit of an overstatement, the song does shift through a few ideas before coming to an end. There are some exotic sounds blended with some Southern rock. Smith has the ability to sing a style similar to the late Shannon Hoon, but doesn't have the same sound. Hoon's voice was sometimes a bit much for me. Smith's is actually quite tuneful and smoother. There are percussion loops and flute melded with acoustic Southern rock and Smith's overdubbed harmonies.
I'd like to tell you "Instead" should have been a hit with a little bit of promotion and some A&R goob working on behalf of the record, but just because I can listen to it 20 times in a row (which I did yesterday) doesn't mean anyone else is going to. On the other hand, some Hollywood producer thought enough of it to use it in a hit television show and I did listen to it 20 times in a row. There is an audience out there for this record and they don't even know it. Spend a buck at the iTunes store and find out if you're part of it.