In some ways, The Baseball Project is very straightforward: a few talented musicians produce records themed around a sport they follow religiously. But this isnâ€™t a band that can only be appreciated by those who get the references.
On bass and guitar respectively are R.E.M.â€™s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, his frequent collaborator on projects like The Minus 5. Rounding out the lineup is Steve Wynn and his drummer Linda Pitmon, making this a group worth checking out if only for the instrumentals. The album flirts with folk and alternative sounds, but itâ€™s always solidly grounded in rhythm and melody.
Even if you donâ€™t know that â€œTonyâ€ refers to Tony Conigliaro (or understand who Conigliaro was), the Nick Cave sound can always be enjoyed. â€œThe Straw That Stirs the Drinkâ€ is a delightful slice of Southern rock. But potentially the most poignant and effective song on the album is the closer, â€œHere Lies Carl Mays.â€
With hauntingly distorted guitar and gently plucked acoustics, the lyrics recall the perspective of Carl Mays, who had an impressive career but found his reputation ruined when he accidentally struck Ray Chapman in the head with a pitch, causing his death. The weight of that guilt when standing over Chapmanâ€™s grave, combined with the sweetly simplistic music, ought to stir any heart and show why this supergroup deserves broad appeal.