Homegrown Treasures Connects
Sitting the middle of Rusty Bladen's new album, "Homegrown Treaures", is a tune called "Molly's Song". It's a four-minute piece of music that tells the story of the disappearance of Molly Datillo, sung from the perspective of those who still live in her hometown: her mom, her friends, and people like Rusty, who simply knew of her because they are from the same small town - in this case, a historic piece of Indiana called Madison. If you have been there, you already know - it's a place full of buildings erected in the 1800's and still in use. There's a slower pace than someone from the city is used to, and residents (and their parents and grandparents) have lived there forever, or have moved and stayed because whatever magical reach to the past that exists in the southern Indiana town has pulled them in. Kind of how Homegrown Treasures unfolds: It draws you in and the reveals its best parts slowly.
An acoustic guitar-driven live recording of a show taped at former John Mellencamp bass player Toby Myers' studio in Nashville, Indiana, Rusty invited 100 fans and friends to fill space up. But the crowd isn't what keeps you listening. It's the songs that reflect and embelish on what it is like to live someplace for a long time, and develop deep connections. Not just "Molly's Song", which is a 12-string masterwork of capturing a heartbreaking situation, but also the summertime romp that is "Cumberland Lake", telling the story of a boat trip where a bunch of friends end up drinking extra-strong margarita's, Woody throws on a red bikini top, and a girl ends the night by jumping naked into the water. You can feel their connection - these are people who have become close through years of growing up as neighbors and friends.
The records is divided almost equally between fun tunes and the more serious stuff. "Warm Cup of Coffee" which leads off the album, captures the essence of the ten songs that will come after. The perspective is a weary, emphethetic guy. He's not really given up; instead more likely still has questions that maybe no one ever finds answers to.
The music is Rusty's bright, slightly-or-more southern-accented voice, a forceful rhythm guitar, ample harmonica and even a kazoo used effectively on a pair of songs, including the final cut, "Diggin' Folk Music", on which he runs through a list of his favorite folk singers, from Woody and Arlo Guthrie, Steve Goodman, Pete Seeger, to Neil Young, John Prine and Todd Snider.
If you've seen Rusty's live shows over the past 20 years, this album reminds you why he's one of the best at what he does: rock and roll folk music from the Indiana guy.He's never been a musician who was going to go to LA and make a splash. He hasn't even moved to Bloomington or Indianapolis. He's in Madison, Indiana, and ain't ever leaving. That perspective - and a collection of songs that feel like they are from someplace real, make this album essential for a listener who calls themselves an Americana music fan.