The Baseball Project

Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails

Peanuts, hot dogs, Cracker Jack and ... indie rock? Why not, says Scott McCaughey (the Minus 5, R.E.M.) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3), who enlisted R.E.M.'s Peter Buck to assist on this set of edgy originals about baseball and its (mostly) fallen heroes. Songs about the trials and tribulations of the sport's forgotten or tarnished greats such as Mark McGwire, Ted Williams and Curt Flood are often sung in first person, placing their hard-luck stories in the larger context of life's cruelties, where baseball stars are only as good as yesterday's game. This chiming, folk-rock romp hits a few foul balls but generally keeps a high-slugging percentage of melody vs. lyrics. It ends with "The Closer," sung by the unnamed relief pitching protagonist who laments, "Everything to gain and plenty to lose." If that sounds like a metaphor for life, it's no accident. 3 stars.