Homelessness is not what it used to be. Nowadays you can find families with one, two wage earners, some working extra jobs, who simply cannot pay what landlords are charging for rent. Not even at so-called affordable rates. So, people who, before the economy went to hell, managed to make ends meet even if they did have to keep an eye out for the wolf coming down the block, headed for their door, these days have neither a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out.
Which makes producer Tyler Blanski’s compilation Think Out Loud: Music Serving the Homeless in the Twin Cities (Ezekial Records and Creative Group) a recording worth paying attention to. Every dime it brings in, as the liner notes say, goes to those in need. Of course, another reason is the lineup of local heavyweights like Blanksi, Chastity Brown, Cloud Cult, members of Trampled by Turtles, Charlie Parr and more. National artist Pieta Brown’s on board, too. In all, 15 alternative acts weigh in, contributing their chops to the cause. With singer-songwriter-guitarist-arranger Tyler Blanski doing, by far, the lion’s share of the work.
Tyler Blanski is not to the most arresting vocalist in the world or the most interesting lyricist, but does have a nice feel for a laid-back groove. Worthwhile examples are the Cajun-blues spiced “Bourbon” and “Peter Pan,” an intricate piece of somber reflection. An initial inclination is ask what in the holy hell is he doing playing a hillbilly rendition of the Ray Charles classic, “Hallelujah.” Until you remember, Charles started out as a country singer. Amazingly original singer-songwriter, steadily rising star Chastity Brown, who usually plays guitar, switches to piano for “Woke Up This Morning.” It’s characteristic of Brown, mournful without getting maudlin, a beautifully raw-edge ballad that stays with you long after the listening is done. Anyone who dug seminal L.A. rockers Love will perk up their ears to Cloud Cult’s “A Place,” revisiting the heart and mind of Bryan MacLean. It’s an ethereal delight. Pieta Brown coyly intrigues with “King of My Heart,” a quiet cut with her on vocals and guitar accompanied by Don Was (who produced this number) on acoustic bass.
Were it not for a worthy cause, Think Out Loud: Music Serving the Homeless in the Twin Cities still should move you to pony up and reach in your wallet. This is not just a reason to do the right thing. It’s an opportunity to take enjoyable sounds home and give them a good listen.