Glossary
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Glossary

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, United States

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, United States
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Personal Correspondence: I first heard Glossary as part of my regular beat covering local bands for the alt-weekly Nashville Scene in the '90s, and I remember thinking that from the start—on the smartly titled Southern By The Grace Of Location—that bandleader Joey Kneiser had an uncanny ability to grasp the complexities of contemporary Southern life, and to express them in rollicking roots-rock songs that didn't sound pre-digested. Glossary has only gotten better since, recording three consecutive albums that—if there were any justice to the music business—would be staples of rock radio and critics' lists. About 2003's How We Handle Our Midnights, I wrote, "For six years, singer-songwriter-guitarist Joey Kneiser and the rest of his small-town Tennessee sextet have employed a bash-it-out, kitchen sink approach reminiscent of mid-'90s indie-rockers like Butterglory and Small Factory, but with a flair for expansiveness and guitar heroism that rivals proto-grunge acts Eleventh Dream Day and Cell. The band tends to take their shambling tunefulness and stretch out, playing closely together and following their own natural momentum. On How We Handle Our Midnights, Kneiser and company nod to their country and classic rock influences, generating a warm, rootsy sound while still raising a racket and heading off in unexpected directions. The album stays strong by returning to the idea of youthful dreams tempered by gradual acceptance of the go-nowhere pace of Middle America. There's echoes of strip-mall practice spaces and undeveloped grassy lots in Glossary's wall-rattling stomps, and an understanding of the restlessness that comes from being stuck." Then about 2006's For What I Don't Become: "There are local bands that build a buzz and a following until they get a crack at going national, and then there are local bands like Murfreesboro, TN's Glossary, that keep at it year after year because there's something that needs to be expressed, even if no more than a few thousand people ever hear it. Those bands are the rock equivalent of regional filmmakers, turning out low-budget, heartfelt stories that zero in on lifestyles and locations that the mainstream media overlooks. For What I Don't Become is yet another Glossary album about people who work hard and don't seem to get anywhere. The centerpiece song is 'Days Go By,' a sprawling, scorching twang-rocker that makes the title phrase more haunting by adding the words, 'even when we don't want 'em to.' For What I Don't Become weighs its rootsy kick against a strong note of loneliness, but the dominant tone of the album is set by the opening song 'Shaking Like A Flame,' which rumbles like a locomotive even as Kneiser sings about how it feels to rust. This may be one of the most exultant albums ever made about failure." Glossary's fifth LP The Better Angels Of Our Nature was self-released late last year, and is currently available as a free download on the band's website. If you like it, buy a hard copy. Either way, I'm sure the band will happy enough to know that someone out there is listening.

Enduring presence? Whenever I doubt the purpose of rock criticism, I think about bands like Glossary, that need strong advocates, and don't always get them. Glossary has been around for 10 years, and have remained largely ignored by the critical establishment, not because they're been dismissed, but because almost no one has heard them. There are people out there right now who are Glossary fans and don't even know it yet. Could you be one of them? - Noel Murray - The Onion A.V. Club


Liquor and religion are staples of Joey Kneiser’s songs. Not that he can ever seem to point to either one as the answer.

His band, Glossary, has been together in one incarnation or another for 10 years. They play at times languid, at times skronky, literate rock. You could say Allman Brothers meets Dinosaur Jr., but the songs aren’t dumb enough for the former or noisy enough for the latter.

“We always get lumped in with alt-country, which I never really understood. I mean, I guess it’s because we’re from Tennessee and once you put a pedal steel in a song you’re alt-country,” Kneiser, a serious, engaging type, says from his Murfreesboro home. “The term alt-country leads people to think (country) is the main influence of your band. We’re obviously not that. We’re a rock and roll band. That’s our foundation. Country is an influence.”

“We’re just five kids who grew up liking music and we started a band … there’s no real restrictions on what we’re trying to do. We just let it go, for better or for worse. We’re all really into punk rock and indie rock, but we all love country music and rhythm and blues and old time music. Just anything American.”

Pretty much sums up their most recent album, “For What I Don’t Become.”

Kneiser plays guitar and sings. Glossary is also Bingham Barnes, bass; Todd Beene, guitar, Eric Giles, drums and Kneiser’s wife Kelly on vocals. If anything sets them apart form their (sorry!) alt-country colleagues, it’s the harmonies between husband and wife. That and the mid-’90ish guitar squeals.

“Become” starts out with the rolling snare of “Shaking Like a Flame” that implies the open road and its temptations of “Blisters on my fingers / Alcohol on my breath / On the kind of night? Too easy to forget.” Then “Poor Boy” with a bass line more Detroit than Dixie. “Time Rolling” starts out as a plaintive ballad until the end of the first chorus when a Sonic Youth quality wail charges into it. “Days Go By” is a hip shaker that belies its lyrics about faith or lack of it. “Headstones and Dead Leaves” is bittersweet, midtempo and more about living than its title suggests.

And those aren’t all the high points. It’s an album that fits together in ways that most don’t in these days of “shuffle” as a menu option. Something Kneiser, a decade into his songwriting career, made a point of doing.

“I was writing all the songs at the same time. I’d work on some of one then on to another one,” he says. “I wanted a song about loss. I wanted a song about love. I wanted a song about being the poor boy. I wanted a song about religion. I wanted all of it to have all of it to have a religiousy feel.”

“We live in the South. I am knee deep in religion all the time. When you live in the South you think like a Christian no matter how progressive or liberal you are. But at the same time I’m working like five feet from people who believe we’re in the end times. So it’s a constant push on me of constantly trying to figure out what I think about it all.”

“That difference between Saturday night and Sunday morning. That ‘I don’t know if (heaven) exists, but I don’t want to push it too hard.’ There’s that moral foundation. You can be in more liberal places and you can play rock and roll and feel good about it. But in the South you do something stupid and you come back home and you feel horrible about it. You go out and party and get stupid and get drunk, you’re Johnny Cash … and you have to live with the guilt.”

That manifests itself in “Poor Boy’ as “Honey, call the preacher / Call all your friends / The night ain't over / ‘Til everybody sins.” Or “Days Go By” with “But I’ve got a bible, baby / With the shape of a whiskey bottle cut out / A whole lot of living left in me / One foot in heaven and a dirty mouth.”

All this might be a little heavy if the music didn’t counterbalance it. One hundred gigs a year has made them a tight, fun live act. “I wish we could do it more. I’d love to be in a position where we could play 200 shows a year and the money would make sense,” Kneiser half-grumbles. It’s equal parts drive and the band actually liking being out on the road with each other.

“We play as much as we can. We just like to play. We just enjoy that and being together. When we’re at home aside from practicing once or twice a week we don’t really see each other. When we get out on the road and the only thing we have to think about (is playing) we’re just so excited and happy to do it,” he says.

The band hopes to have a new album, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” (a quote from Lincoln’s first inaugural address — Kneiser can’t be accused of not thinking big) out later in the year. - msnbc.com


Liquor and religion are staples of Joey Kneiser’s songs. Not that he can ever seem to point to either one as the answer.

His band, Glossary, has been together in one incarnation or another for 10 years. They play at times languid, at times skronky, literate rock. You could say Allman Brothers meets Dinosaur Jr., but the songs aren’t dumb enough for the former or noisy enough for the latter.

“We always get lumped in with alt-country, which I never really understood. I mean, I guess it’s because we’re from Tennessee and once you put a pedal steel in a song you’re alt-country,” Kneiser, a serious, engaging type, says from his Murfreesboro home. “The term alt-country leads people to think (country) is the main influence of your band. We’re obviously not that. We’re a rock and roll band. That’s our foundation. Country is an influence.”

“We’re just five kids who grew up liking music and we started a band … there’s no real restrictions on what we’re trying to do. We just let it go, for better or for worse. We’re all really into punk rock and indie rock, but we all love country music and rhythm and blues and old time music. Just anything American.”

Pretty much sums up their most recent album, “For What I Don’t Become.”

Kneiser plays guitar and sings. Glossary is also Bingham Barnes, bass; Todd Beene, guitar, Eric Giles, drums and Kneiser’s wife Kelly on vocals. If anything sets them apart form their (sorry!) alt-country colleagues, it’s the harmonies between husband and wife. That and the mid-’90ish guitar squeals.

“Become” starts out with the rolling snare of “Shaking Like a Flame” that implies the open road and its temptations of “Blisters on my fingers / Alcohol on my breath / On the kind of night? Too easy to forget.” Then “Poor Boy” with a bass line more Detroit than Dixie. “Time Rolling” starts out as a plaintive ballad until the end of the first chorus when a Sonic Youth quality wail charges into it. “Days Go By” is a hip shaker that belies its lyrics about faith or lack of it. “Headstones and Dead Leaves” is bittersweet, midtempo and more about living than its title suggests.

And those aren’t all the high points. It’s an album that fits together in ways that most don’t in these days of “shuffle” as a menu option. Something Kneiser, a decade into his songwriting career, made a point of doing.

“I was writing all the songs at the same time. I’d work on some of one then on to another one,” he says. “I wanted a song about loss. I wanted a song about love. I wanted a song about being the poor boy. I wanted a song about religion. I wanted all of it to have all of it to have a religiousy feel.”

“We live in the South. I am knee deep in religion all the time. When you live in the South you think like a Christian no matter how progressive or liberal you are. But at the same time I’m working like five feet from people who believe we’re in the end times. So it’s a constant push on me of constantly trying to figure out what I think about it all.”

“That difference between Saturday night and Sunday morning. That ‘I don’t know if (heaven) exists, but I don’t want to push it too hard.’ There’s that moral foundation. You can be in more liberal places and you can play rock and roll and feel good about it. But in the South you do something stupid and you come back home and you feel horrible about it. You go out and party and get stupid and get drunk, you’re Johnny Cash … and you have to live with the guilt.”

That manifests itself in “Poor Boy’ as “Honey, call the preacher / Call all your friends / The night ain't over / ‘Til everybody sins.” Or “Days Go By” with “But I’ve got a bible, baby / With the shape of a whiskey bottle cut out / A whole lot of living left in me / One foot in heaven and a dirty mouth.”

All this might be a little heavy if the music didn’t counterbalance it. One hundred gigs a year has made them a tight, fun live act. “I wish we could do it more. I’d love to be in a position where we could play 200 shows a year and the money would make sense,” Kneiser half-grumbles. It’s equal parts drive and the band actually liking being out on the road with each other.

“We play as much as we can. We just like to play. We just enjoy that and being together. When we’re at home aside from practicing once or twice a week we don’t really see each other. When we get out on the road and the only thing we have to think about (is playing) we’re just so excited and happy to do it,” he says.

The band hopes to have a new album, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” (a quote from Lincoln’s first inaugural address — Kneiser can’t be accused of not thinking big) out later in the year. - msnbc.com


Discography

"Letter To Phoebe Summersquash" 7" (1997 Champ Records)
Southern by the Grace of Location :CD (1998 Champ Records)
"Start, Stop and Go" b/w "Make Me fall Down" 7" (1999 Jet Glue Records)
This Is All We’ve Learned About Living (2000) : CD Champ Records
Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts (2002) CDEP: Champ Records
How We Handle Our Midnights (2003) : CD Undertow Records
For What I Don’t Become (2006) : CD Undertow Records
The Better Angels Of Our Nature (2007) : CD Self Released
The Better Angels Of Our Nature (2010) : LP Last Chance Records
Feral Fire (2010) : CD Liberty and Lament Records

Photos

Bio

When author Cormac McCarthy describes looking upon “paths of feral fire in the coagulate sands” in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road, he hit on what Glossary lead singer Joey Kneiser says is “the perfect image of longing.”

It sparked the title of Glossary’s sixth full-length album, Feral Fire, which includes a testifying batch of R&B and country tinged rock songs that explores the band’s dysfunctional relationships with time, religion, materialism, the universe and southern ideals. It’s that same longing, says Kneiser, that drives people to pursue the things they wouldn’t normally pursue.
“I think every human being feels like they are here to do something great, but they just don’t know what it is,” he says. “The record is really about trying to find out what that is… having this real longing fire.”
Mixing pedal steel and other traditional instrumentation with bending and crashing electric guitars, Glossary’s spirited, American rock & roll speaks loudly to those beyond the southern region—those who relate to the great communicators like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Otis Redding. Joey Kneiser’s cracked voice, complemented by Kelly Kneiser’s relaxed, creamy vocals, creates an everyman musical quality able to fit the passing night through a car window, or a rowdy beer swilling get-together. The group has shared the bill with everyone from southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers to the punk-spirited Against Me! and been embraced as musical family by their crowds.
Produced by Centro-matic drummer and recording guru Matt Pence, and released on sister band Lucero’s label, Liberty Lement, Feral Fire was recorded in ten days and encapsulates Glossary’s unremitting musical drive---one that involves playing and creating for the sake of simply playing and creating. In fact, the five-piece from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been releasing records both independently and on labels for over a decade. In 2007, the band posted its previous record, The Better Angels of Our Nature, online free of charge to gratified fanfare.
Feral Fire sees a band full of “pop music junkies” (with a soft spot for both underground music and ’80s country radio) delving into multiple genres. The soul-soaked “Pretty Things” is a love song pointed at a materialistic girl coming to grips with her own identity, while the jaunty, rebellious “Save Your Money for the Weekend” chronicles a rough-and-ragged southerner pleading with a waning Christian girl to shed her inhibitions—kind of a southern version of Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”. The latter includes the affectionately irreverent line, “All I know is southern girls are sweeter ‘cause they’re full of Jesus’ love,” and seems to resurrect the spirit of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott.
“Nowadays, we definitely want the songs to have some sort of groove to them… or swing a little more,” says Kneiser. “Really, we just try to just work the song. Nobody plays more than they should. It’s more like ‘how can we serve the song?’”

Other album highlights include “Hope and Peril” (sang by Todd Beene), a split narrative about two souls’ parallel battles with restlessness, which features all the active, acoustic guitar pep of a Lindsey Buckingham cut, and “Through the Screen Door,” a wandering swan song with an open terrain of perfectly placed guitar crescendos wired around a deep pounding bass line al la Kim Deal.
In the album’s raucous lead-off track, “Lonely is a Town,” Kneiser’s lyrics take a more supernatural route, almost questioning the idea of where the body and the soul meet.

Lonely is a town
On a night like this
Where the city moans like a neon sign
Just flickering to try and stay lit

And the moon looks like a hole
Cut out of the sky
And shining through is a beacon of light
Somewhere from the other side

“It’s really just figuring out everything is so massive and you’re so small,” says Kneiser. “You live in this physical world and there are things you don’t understand and things you will probably never understand. Coming to terms with the fact that you just don’t have any control is pretty hard to accept.”

What’s evident though, is, despite life’s curveballs and passing landscapes, Glossary will continue to write thought-provoking Americana manifestos and shout them from its own unique southern pulpit. Much like in the anthemic track, “Bend with the Breeze,” Kneiser and the band seem to have adopted their own mantra.

“You can sit around and pine over bad things happening to you or you can stand-up,” says Kneiser. “I overheard an old southern woman say, ‘You just got to bend with the breeze. ‘ I thought, ‘Man, you better bend with the breeze or it will break you.’ Bad things are going to happen…it’s inevitable. But, what are you going to do? You still got to wake up in the morning.”