The Harmony of Truth
In rock musics
relatively brief history, some of its finest moments have been fraught with
great anguish or high drama. Whether it be the marital acrimony that permeates
Fleetwood Macs Rumours or the initially aimless direction that began U2s
reinvention on Achtung Baby, many great artists have turned trying times into
On their eighth studio release, Bastardos!, Blues Traveler found itself in a
tense situation. John Popper, the bands singer and wildly innovative harmonica
player, recalls the career uncertainty that plagued the band in the initial
process of creating the album. He explains, We were going to go to Austin
just to write for a month. Then we realized, much to our chagrin, that we needed
to have the whole album recorded in six weeks or we would miss our deadline.
This among other things led to the removal of our management. So, we didnt
even have a manager. The band members had to find the place [studio] and find
the producer. Then we all had to find management at some point and finish the
record deal. There was this wonderful time in June when we had all of those
things done. By accident, we found [producer] Jay Bennett. I think [keyboardist]
Ben [Wilson] e-mailed him. Luckily for us, he turned out to be a genius.
Although the band was extremely pleased with the producer they had chosen, Popper
was also undergoing personal chaos. He reflects, The day before we started
writing for this record, I just ended a four-year relationship. Well, I didnt
end it - she ended it. We were six months away from tying the knot. So a lot
of the songs in that chunk I didnt even notice until we were done. I didnt
really feel November; I was numb. And I look back and say, Wow, we wrote
some good songs. Then, when we got to Austin, there was someone I met
on this trip we went on. I met her five weeks before and I wrote five songs
about her. Ive never had anyone have the effect on me. A lot of the songs
are about meeting someone and being excited about that. I think it was a smattering.
I was thinking about relationships a little more intensely than I had in the
As a result of all the frenetic energy surrounding both his band and personal
life, the singer/songwriter managed to delve into his emotional palette and
deliver his most profound lyrics to date. While acknowledging the accomplishment,
the modest artist admits, As a songwriter, youre supposed to be
honest and write about what you know and keep the experience that youre
trying to get to and trying to establish something thats true. Hopefully,
that will connect with other people. Thats a wonderful secret about songwriting.
If you can write something thats true and if you can make that connection,
it doesnt matter what its about. People can and do assign their
own meanings to it. They get an image that reminds them of something and, to
them, thats what the song is about. The secret is that its every
bit as valid as what I was [originally] thinking. If you write something thats
true, it harmonizes. Truth harmonizes.
There is definitely a lot of truth throughout the collection. From the opening
guitar riff of You Cant Stop Thinking About Me, Blues Traveler
sends the listener on a 14-song voyage of shifting atmosphere and theme. The
final track, The Children of the Night, is a psychedelic groove
that grinds with otherworldly power. In the end, Bastardos! is a testament to
the belief that the end result makes the struggle worthwhile.