Badlees – Up There Down Here

  1999 Ark 21

I was first introduced to this when my ex-wife listened to it endlessly while she was pregnant with our second child.  At one point, I think I had the whole thing memorized from start to finish.  To say this is one of the most criminally overlooked albums of all time is an understatement, and its inclusion in the 10 Best of the Abyss is a no-brainer.

Stylistically, the closest comparisons I can really draw are Counting Crows and Train, though this album (and Badlees albums in general) shows more diversity than either.  The songs have more conviction than both of the aforementioned bands, as Bret Alexander’s songwriting is all heart and Pete Palladino’s vocals are powerful while also being intimate and vulnerable without the whininess of singers like Adam Duritz.

The album kicks off with the melodic but upbeat melancholy of “Don’t Let Me Hide” and takes you on an emotional ride that is riveting in its intimacy.   Favorite tracks here are “Which One of You,” “Running Up That Hill,” “Thinking in Ways,” “The Second Coming of Chris” and the stunning “Middle of the Busiest Road,” which is one of my 5 favorite songs ever and on any given day could be my favorite song ever.

The mix of electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, dulcimer, dobro and lap steel guitar definitely put this in the “roots rock” category, if we must categorize.  That being said, ‘Up There Down Here’ stands among the best of the genre, in my opinion burying the best offerings from Train, Counting Crows and Pennsylvania’s own Hooters (all bands which I like).   It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Rating:  5 out of 5

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