Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Something that's felt good and almost eerily natural lately is trying to imagine what it would be like to be slightly more bluegrass-like, as if the Ozarks and the Blue Ridge mountains could be parlayed into my plain as vanilla accent to make everything a touch more earthy. There's been an unconquerable desire to hunt out old Bailes Brothers vinyl (still looking) and there's been more and more of an inclination to just shun my fashion history and that of all the people I've ever rolled with and just go get me a nice set of cowboy boots or the like. They've got to be dusty and they've got to crack in the leather with a hard line where the toes bend, maybe pinching some of the foot. There could be cigs and pouches of chewing tobacco in the future for this guy if these inklings don't get suppressed somehow. There's a strange need to just be dirty for a week straight and to not be repulsed by a stiff aroma of man's body odor - whether it's my own or that of another. It could become as alluring as popcorn and hot fudge.
There was a antique clearing house that we passed through this past winter where some fat belt buckles were on display and despite not having worn one since I was perhaps eight or nine years of age, there my fingers were examining that heavy piece of metal that really would serve this guy little purpose, but it would go a little bit further in solidifying a potential new look and sensibility.
Pennsylvania group And The Moneynotes does not make any of these confusing wants and leanings lessen. They fan the flames and make a person want to start distilling their own booze, bottling that moonshine up and move completely away from any place that has a Chili's or an Olive Garden within a 50-mile radius. It's a group that could make someone long for old-fashioned pancake breakfasts at the community center - where everyone pitched in to bring the egg casseroles and fry up the sausage links. They give off a hometown warmth that a big city dweller could never fully understand because, no matter how hard they tried, they'd always be surrounded by more strangers than friends, and when really thought about, the idea is a chilling and depressing one - some factor that could never be made better simply because there are five choices of coffee houses and nightclubs all within a block's walk from a cramped studio apartment.
And The Moneynotes are the epitome of growing up and into your beard, growing into those ragged boots and those old-timey countenances that aren't really all that old-timey because they've been riding in their bones for generations. Perhaps it was misguided or ignored for a while, but the instincts and the rough around the edges characteristics of people dwelling mostly off the land and the barrel drinks will always surface, letting the apple reattach to the tree after an initial dropping to the thudding, patchy grassed floor beneath. The music - full of gorgeous sadness (you know the kind), exuberant liveliness (you also know the clothes-tearing, hot-footed kind) and murder ballads for the ages - is made out of pheasant feathers, whispering alcohol fumes, drunken piano flurries, miner soot and the best peach cobbler that anyone could ever hope to set into a mouth. It's as American and rural as an ice cream social or a corn on the cob stand. It's a corncob pipe and dirt stains on the knees of a pair of Levi's overalls draped over a tired torso. It's like traveling to a ghost town and finding everyone friendly, with an outstretched mug of the good stuff, ready to party until the morning lights start to blare from the eastern horizon.