The Daily Vault (6-17-2011)
Maggie's House - Misty Owl Music, 2011
Eddie and Frank Thomas
by Jedediah Pressgrove
I’ve lived in Mississippi my entire life, but I’ve never been to Iuka, the home of Eddie (vocals, instruments) and Frank Thomas (production). Listening to Maggie’s House is a visit of sorts; it certainly has a strong sense of time and place. While the album sometimes reminds me of where I grew up (Cascilla, Miss.), I have an urge to see this town “within a hoot and a holler of Tennessee and Alabama,” as the liner notes say.
I’m most interested in the mischief of Maggie’s House. When the guitar playing starts in “White Lightning,” you already know the boys are up to something. Eddie’s finger picking brings to mind the late Jerry Reed, whose notes told you everything you needed to know. But I’m glad “White Lightning” isn’t an instrumental, as I wouldn’t have learned that white lightning is a term for moonshine. Eddie’s story involves a chase after a raccoon, but the important part is the misplaced bottle of moonshine in the woods. Besides the fun of it all, I find “White Lightning” culturally significant. At one point Eddie sings “that jug of mountain dew,” and I was taken aback because my brain initially brought up the disgusting soda. Corporate America has stripped away a nice phrase involving illegal activity and slapped it on a product that messes us up anyway. As imaginative as it might be (after all, memory is tricky), Maggie’s House is about bringing one back to what’s real and cherished.
Another fun track is “Drive This Train,” which seems to be a bit of wish fulfillment on Eddie’s part. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with cars or boats and is “a rocket on a rail in a cast-iron overcoat.” The song is as old-timey as it is rock ‘n’ roll.
And then you have the title track that describes a recurring Saturday party in an Alabama home. Eddie shares detail after detail of the event, but I think it can be summed up with this great bit: “Too much wine, too much cheese / I lost my car, found my keys.” Along with “Dancing With Bonnie” (which features some tasty trumpet playing), “Maggie’s House” is an entertaining portrait of small-town people getting down back in the day.
The remainder of the album deals with quieter, sweeter themes. “In Perfumed Air” captures both a fleeting group of moments (punctuated by smell) and the almost unbearable nostalgia that comes with remembering them. “Marie” concerns a single dance in the dark with what sounds like Eddie’s first love. “Young Boy” is perhaps the strongest of these tracks – indeed, our interactions with nature, a horse in this case, define our humanity.
The only weakness in Maggie’s House is that a couple of tracks (“You And Me” and “Did You Know?”) don’t translate as vividly as the other songs and thus don’t seem as important. But there’s no question that Eddie and Frank Thomas have created a well-produced and honest album with a lot of personality.
- Jedediah Pressgrove