Long before sports strikes, steroid scandals, and Madonna trysts reared their homely heads, baseball was considered America's great national pastime. As devotion to the game cuts across generational lines, it's only natural there'd be a concept album about baseball. The Baseball Project is one such homage, courtesy of Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn (of the legendary Dream Syndicate), R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, and drummer Linda Pitmon (of Wynn's Miracle 3). The best thing about this Project is, one need not be a game fanatic: The disc stands on its own as a fine set of Kinks-ish power-pop and rootsy rock. Some songs are based in serious history — the plaintive, strummy folk-rock of "Satchel Paige Said" — while others are satirical, like the anthemic glitter stomper "Ted Fucking Williams." The story of Jackie Robinson, who broke the game's racial barrier, is well-served by McCaughey's plainspoken vocals in the gently rollicking, bittersweet "Jackie's Lament." "Harvey Haddix" is a midtempo tribute to an underrated player conveyed by Wynn's Dylanesque vocals and joyous ramshackle melody. If the Baseball Project has anything to say about it, love for the sport will endure. Batter up.
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