|Heartsfield rockin’ the Burbs|
Heartsfield, Oh, Heartsfield, you are the type of southern rock I was searching for all of my life. What if I told you that you could see performing live at your local bar one of the greatest southern rock bands ever? or that this same band hails from our very own Hyde Park hood? If, you can imagine all of this, then imagine a country band listening to some of power pop’s dreamiest songs and just saying I wish I could take that sound somewhere for a bit. Well, Heartsfield (lead by local JC Hartsfield) was that band. Back then, they were a damn good country/southern rock band, but when they wanted to sound like a regular rock band… that’s when they were awesome. They were a relentless touring band, booking 300 dates a year was a common tally for them. All of this time on the road left them with little time to think about whether the type of music they would make was appropriately “southern” enough, but that’s what made them great.
I won’t go much into their bio, since the Reader did a great job condensing this unknown great already as part of their Secret History of Chicago series. The sound heard in the songs I selected from their brilliant four album stretch from Heartsfield through Collectors Item is revelatory (and all found on Spotify!). Here’s a band, somehow, finding a way to foretell the great Midwestern power pop tradition of bands that had yet to exist like Cheap Trick, Shoes, REO Speedwagon (to some extent) et al. and sprinkle in these types of songs/feel in between or on their genuinely great and varied southern rock sound. Its a mark of a great band when you don’t exactly know what type of style they’re going to do in the next track, and that’s up to and including a f’in suave banger of a track like Another Night Alone. This is a mark of band completely giving no shakes about critics and just putting out any great idea without regard to labels slapped on them.
How about I slap them a label: southern pop. As, you go through listening to these tracks you’ll hear some obvious southern or country rock markers (jamming, country drawls, rural themes) but then you’ll hear them introduce interesting twists that take it somewhere else altogether. These are the twists that fascinate me, and hopefully you too. For now, all I can think about is that gorgeous part (somewhere around the 6 minute mark…) from “Racin’ the Sun”, after they went on a Crazy Horse-like guitar duel, when they build up to the vocal harmonies of:
I don’t need no city lights
to light my way
All I need is the stars at night
to make me want to stay
and sonically float into some truly magical space. For now, I’ll just imagine this is the music that Heartsfield thought Alex and Chris from Big Star were listening to the night they were waiting on that sunrise…
Listen to Southern Girl at Spotify.