With a fifteen-year back catalogue, it’s no surprise that the musicians involved make up a kind of Americana orchestra rather than a stable four- or five-piece band. The term ‘union’ has never been better used. But there needs to be a constant and at the centre of the storm is Chuck Melchin, singer, guitarist, producer, songwriter and conductor to his assembled musicians that have, in some way, pitched in during the history of the band.
I’ll admit that I had never heard of ‘The Bean Pickers Union’ but I picked up the cd on the basis of the name and, having lived with it for a few days, I have to say, it’s all rather good.
Understandably, with eighteen songs in total – yes, you get value for money with The BPU! – not all tracks are going to hit home and there are sudden shifts in the mood here and there (again, understandably given these songs are from different albums and musician influences) but on the whole, this is a fine collection of Americana music that tackles the well-worn subjects of love, loss, redemption and worrying whether the crops will grow.
It’s also an exercise in music being a connection with musicians coming and going but never letting the overall sound drift into something unrecognisable.
There are some stand out songs, I particularly liked ‘Tranquility’, ‘Independence Day’, ‘Down’ and ‘Glory’ but I found the more I listened, the more my tastes would change, and I enjoyed the album more with each listen.
Fans of this style of music might already have an album or two by The BPU and I’m probably preaching to the converted but, if this is the first experience with the band, it’s a great place to start and might even put you on course for tracking down the band’s previous work.