5 September 2016, No. 188, 20th Century Steel Band, ‘Heaven and Hell’

“Children grow and women produce and men go work and some go stealin’ / Everyone’s got to make a living.” They’re lyrics that by now have thoroughly permeated American pop music, but if you listen past the intro, you find out how weird and vaguely foreboding a steel drum in the bass register can sound. I don’t have any other records from steel bands, and this is the first time it occurred to me that No. 188, “Heaven and Hell” from 20th Century Steel Band, has nothing to it except trap kit, tambourine, and steel drums. And that big chorus of vocals. Steel drums are usually light and sunny, but in this minor-key mid-tempo meditation they do seem a little hellish. Everyone’s got to make a living, sure, but I’m enjoying a bit more of the heaven side of things on my Labor Day off.