Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “From Nails To Thumbtacks” by The Baseball Project from the 2014 album 3rd on Yep Roc.
Sports and rock music haven’t always been a winning combo, but the members of The Baseball Project’s earnest enthusiasm for the sport and musical pedigree produces one of the most consistently enjoyable musical tributes to sports. The idea of having a baseball-centric group was first conceived by Scott McCaughey (R.E.M., The Minus 5; San Francisco Giants) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate; New York Yankees) in 1992 while the two were touring together, but it didn’t come to fruition until 2008, when Peter Buck (R.E.M.; Washington Senators) and Linda Pitman (Zuzu’s Petals; Minnesota Twins) helped bring the idea to life, recording an album where each song was based on an idea or player from the sport’s lengthy and rich history. Recording and touring sporadically behind two albums in between the members’ breaks from their main gigs, the band was invited to write a running commentary on the 2010 season in song form for ESPN, and preceding the recording of their third album, the aptly-titled 3rd, Mike Mills (R.E.M.; Atlanta Braves) joined the band’s roster. The subject of “From Nails to Thumbtacks” is Mets/Phillies center fielder Lenny “Nails” Dykstra, whose post-baseball years were filled with as many downs as his career was with ups. Aside from all having a love for baseball, all of these musicians’ previous bands have contained a significant pop influence, which is undoubtedly present when they sell Dykstra’s fall from grace – “you gotta fly high to fall this far” – with a buoyancy that belies his story. Its deftness is partially a tribute to a set of top-notch musicians, but also to a sport who continually produces some of the most interesting figures in all of athletics.
After playing SXSW last month, The Baseball Project don’t have any more live dates announced at the moment. (Probably because they’re too busy watching the just-started baseball season. Or breaking the news of Letterman’s retirement.) Keep an eye on their website and Facebook for any updates, and watch the band play “Ichiro” live on KEXP at last year’s Musicfest NW.