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3rd [Digipak] *
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  • Personnel: Scott McCaughey (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion); Steve Wynn (vocals, guitar); Linda Pitmon (vocals, piano, drums, percussion); Mike Mills (vocals); Peter Buck (6-string guitar, 12-string guitar, banjo); Josh Kantor (organ).
  • Audio Mixers: Mitch Easter; Sam Bell; Scott McCaughey.
  • Recording information: Chase Transduction, Athens, GA; Dungeon of Horror, Portland, OR; John Keane Studios, Athens, GA; T-Vox Records, Mexico City, Mexico; Type Foundry, Portland, OR; Woolly Mammoth, Waltham, MA.
  • Photographer: Linda Pitmon.
  • One of the reasons so many people love baseball is it has better stories than nearly any other sport, and Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey are the kind of baseball fans who know a good yarn when they hear one. On the third album from the Baseball Project, Wynn, McCaughey, and their pals Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Linda Pitmon once again revel in their obsession with America's Pastime, and while this band sure knows how to kick up a good rock & roll racket, what really makes this album click is that these folks clearly love the lore and legends of the game, and they get a kick out of setting them to music and passing them along. Sometimes the Baseball Project goes for laughs on tunes like "The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads" (in which Doc Ellis decides he's had enough and uses his fastball as a weapon) and "A Boy Named Cy" (about some unfortunate kid who is named in honor of Cy Young), but the stuff that really stands out on 3rd is when they get serious and focus on the stories of some of the men who played on the diamond. "They Don't Know Henry" gets inside the head of Hank Aaron as he strives to be the best, "Larry Yount" tells the tale of an athlete destined to live in the shadow of his brother, "­Hola America!" considers the triumphs and sorrows of Cuban exile turned baseball star Luis Tiant, and "From Nails to Thumbtacks" sums up the rise and dizzying fall of Lenny Dykstra. (These fans seem to be fascinated by antiheroes, as evidenced in their rant against A-Rod on "13" and a litany of great players who were crummy people in "They Played Baseball"). There are also some engaging bursts of fandom, as Mills lobbies for Dale Murphy to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, McCaughey revels in the joy of box scores, and Wynn gives it up for his baseball card collection. Along the way, Wynn, Buck, and McCaughey turn out to be a pretty impressive guitar army, Mills and Pitmon are a solid and versatile rhythm section, and whether they're kicking out the jams or laying back, they sound like they're having a ball and jazzed to honoring two life obsessions at once. You don't have to love baseball to love the Baseball Project (though it clearly helps) -- on 3rd, this band has made an album that listeners who love a good story with some tough guitars can like, even if they're foolish enough to prefer football. ~ Mark Deming
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