Sunday, April 13, 2003

Blessid Union tosses fat pitch to Reds' fans

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Blessid Union of Souls singer Eliot Sloan (right), guitarist Jeff Pence and the rest share their baseball memories.
Enquirer file/MICHAEL SNYDER

Two local teams join forces on this new CD, as Blessid Union of Souls rocks for the Cincinnati Reds. It's a winning combination, as Blessid's sincere, straightforward approach pays tribute to the down-home pleasures of the national pastime, Cincinnati-style.

Play Ball is a baseball concept album, separated into nine "innings," opening with lead singer Eliot Sloan's a cappella national anthem, and sliding headfirst into the adrenalized title track, with name checks of the Big Red Machine and current stars Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.

But Sloan and the current lineup - guitarists Bryan Bilhimer and Jeff Pence, bassist Tony Clark and drummer Shaun Schaefer - also celebrate the less glamorous players on "Guys Like Me." (Drummer Eddie Hedges and multi-instrumentalist C.P. Roth have left.)

Play Ball: 2003 Commemorative CD
Front Street Records; $15.98
"Get to Know 'Em" serves up stats, "Seventeen is Aaron Boone, didn't miss a game 2002." "Me, Marty, Joe, Ted, and Louise" is Sloan's memoir of growing up in Norwood listening to the Reds after supper, while "Field of Dreams" celebrates the pleasures of "Hot dogs and a nice cold brew on a nice hot summer day."

There's hip hop in "Rounding Third Heading For Home," while "I Can't Wait Till Summer" adds dance-hall reggae, with gruff-voiced raps about various big leaguers.

Then the band brings it home in "Extra Innings," with a song about what, for many, is the hardest part of the game - driving to Great American Ball Park through "Road Construction."

With its strong local flavor, Play Ball won't land Blessid Union back on the national charts, but the band has created a new kind of souvenir for fans, making rock 'n' roll an official part of the Big Red Machine.

Now if the Reds could just start winning.

Play Ball is available at the park. Songs and videos are played during games.

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