In case you've been living under a rock, times have changed since drummers were assumed to be simple fools who were happy just to be there. And Phil Collins aside, wonderous things can happen when a drummer rises from behind the kit and takes center stage. Let's prove for a moment we can ignore The Great Rock Hope, and pull some examples from the relatively small pond that was the Twin Cities music scene in the 80s and 90s.
Hüsker Dü's drummer, Grant Hart, alternated frontperson duties with Bob Mould throughout that band's lifespan, then later released strong albums as both, a solo artist and as the leader of Nova Mob. Billy Dankert isn't a household name, but he consistently released solid solo materials, while The Gear Daddies waxed and waned. A great example is The Jayhawk's timekeeper, Tim O'Reagan, who shocked everyone with this number he wrote and sang on the band's 2003 downtempo dandy, Rainy Day Music, then in 2006, released a nifty, self-titled solo outing.
That said, the most surprising "give the drummer some" album to sneak out of that scene had to be Horseshoes And Hand Grenades (1992), which came about after Chris Mars left his high stress day job, keeping the ever-threatening trainwreck that was The Replacements on the rails, to concentrate on painting and personal musical ambitions. That much-loved album yielded this minor gem.
And if it seems like donkey's years since you heard a peep from Chris and his better half, take a second to check out Mutt Mutt Engine.
And now I'm prepared to talk about Mississippi's Andrew Bryant. Known to well-informed music fans as the skin-beating third of Water Liars, Bryant, following closely on the heels of 2020's well-received Sentimental Noises, is once again ready for his close-up. This is his fourth solo record, if you're keeping score, and if what I've heard thus far is any indication (and if the music buying public doesn't blow it once again), A Meaningful Connection could have him saying Sayonara to the drum stool for once and for all.
Crunchy guitars and confident drumming (What else would you expect?) aside, Bryant's matter-of-fact treatment of existential quandaries is both heartbreaking and rousing. And while there's a level of weariness threading through the album, Bryant wisely never allows it to overshadow the inherent tunefulness of his music. Subsequently, you'll spin these songs again and again, and regularly discover lyrics you can't believe you missed the last ten times.
Hell, you may even dance.
I also feel compelled to mention that Bryant's songs do not shy away from real-world language. However, unlike when so many lesser artists dabble in the blue stuff, it never comes across like fourth graders staging Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago to buy new monkey bars for the playground.
Right off the bat, it's certainly not hard to detect the influence of a guy who wrestled his entire, all-too-short life with some of these same issues, the late great Jason Molina.
If you don't know Jason Molina, shame on you. Skip the fifty Our Fathers and let your pocketbook do your penance; buy every Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. album you can lay your grubbies on.
Of course, if you've been cursed to wander this river, you'll also have some good company in the personages of Bill Callahan (Smog) and Bonnie "Prince" Billy (Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Superwolf, et al). Of course, both are phenomenal songwriters in their own right, but pandemics being what they are, this duo has been busying themselves with some pretty inspired covers, including this one, which fits nicely from the thematically stance of artists like Bryan and Molina. Like it or not, "Deacon Blues" (and much of Steely Dan's discography) was a catchy exercise in snarky, existential navel gazing. And I say that in the best possible way. Just don't mention it any 'Bama alumni you might happen across.
So if you're in the market for feeling good about feeling bad this weekend, you're in luck. Bryant's A Meaningful Connection hit the virtual bins this morning, so grab it via your preferred digital music hookup. No word yet on a physical release, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
One final word of warning. Don't, and I cannot stress this enough, don't go to YouTube and search Andrew Bryant all willy-nilly like. Take that with as many grains of salt as you wish, but don't come pissing and moaning to me when you end up with a timeshare in Florida City.