By Kevin Alan Lamb
This life isn’t for everyone; it requires a commitment to a dream that not everyone can see, and even fewer who can touch. Within its very nature resides a blueprint which introduces you to the greatest loves of your life, while simultaneously taking you away from them, so long as you are bold enough to believe in the road ahead. Its timetable is ambiguous; its destination subject to interpretation, and no matter how good it’s goin’, it could be gone tomorrow.
With the release of their latest album, That Kind of Life, Michigan Rattlers found themselves in a very familiar place, at the precipice of a most unfamiliar time. Back in Petoskey; together; in the basement of the home, Adam Reed grew up; rehearsing for their first show since March 12, 2020 in Chicago.
“We probably don’t even know what it’s going to feel like, but we’re ready, and we can’t wait. We now know what it feels like to have it taken away. And at any time it could be gone,” Graham Young says.
Despite their momentum coming off of touring with Greensky Bluegrass, and recording their second album, the Michigan Rattlers, along with the rest of the world, were cast into a reality of isolation and idle hands. If in February of 1959 the music died, then in March of 2020 the music stopped; and for many it’s only now just coming back to life.
For Tony, Christian, Adam, and Graham the dream resumes on Sunday in Detroit, where they were building a home before life as we knew it came to a halt. They will share the songs from That Kind of Life to a live audience for the first time at Cadieux Cafe for a two night (May 30 & May 31) run with Myron Elkins.
Appropriately, the first track on the album is titled “The Storm”; and although it’s difficult to imagine they could have foreseen the magnitude of the storm that was a global pandemic, canceling live music until further notice, a musician chasing that kinda dream, is all too familiar with That Kind of Life.
The album cover was created by Reed, who started actively painting around the time Evergreen was released (2018). On the road he found himself staring at clouds, preferring their dynamic landscape to the busyness and clutter of traffic signs, billboards, and passing cars. It resembles the Northern Michigan coastline they call home to, far beneath stacked storm clouds, contrasting darkness and light.
“When you’re looking at the clouds you know something is behind it, whether it’s the sun or the moon. You see that it’s a storm, but is it coming, or is it passing?” Reed says.
Sitting outside and painting landscapes was one of the pastimes that helped Reed feel “Like a Kid” again in the absence of performing live music during the pandemic. The fourth track (“Like a Kid” on the album is another page in a dynamic, and continuing love story being lived and written by Young and the Michigan Rattlers.
A winter in Petoskey in their parent’s homes couldn’t help but make them all feel like kids again.
“I got a season pass at Nubbs Nobb (Ski Resort), skied 54 days, over 2k vertical miles,” Christian Wilder says.
While each of them did what they needed to stay afloat, and bear the beast of Michigan winter, it wasn’t always easy, and Young will be the first to tell you that his faith, bordering on certainty, of making it “More Than Just a Dream” was slipping from his fingertips.
“It didn’t always feel like we were getting closer, sometimes it felt like we were fucked. We had all the momentum going then it stopped, but these last few days, playing these songs again, getting to experience them in a different way has changed them, and it’s felt like we’re a band again, and everything we had going, we still do,” Young says.
It’s often difficult to be present within our progress, especially amongst adversity, removed from the flow which has delivered us to grace and better days; but that doesn’t mean what was good yesterday, has been forgotten come tomorrow. Thankfully for many of us, our love story with the Michigan Rattlers is resuming, rather than coming to an end.
“It’s so easy in my arms, dancing in the headlights of my car, and isn’t it strange, that memory is just fading away, yeah we’re all just fading away. This ain’t that kind of scene, this ain’t that kind of dream, this ain’t that kind of life, this ain’t that kind of road, with no direction home.”
It feels like a love song about the reality, and duality of being a touring musician who will always be torn from the one he loves, to pursue that which he loves and hopes to build a life upon; all the while knowing both could fade away as a result of the other. It’s beautiful, terrifying, and potentially tragic; but hey – it’s that kind of life.
Just in case you were listening for one, this is a Good Sound. Tickets and full tour here.