Engaging, homespun hoedown, with a loose, swift sense of purpose about it. But for all its back-porch, fiddle-fronted ambiance, note how the song has no obvious lyrical connection to dirt roads and rustic living beyond its title image; we hear instead contemporary words and phrases like television, red ink, lead actor, tragicomedy. Towards the end of the song, Mees rhymes “cradle-robbing capillary blocker” with “limp-wristed back-alley stalker.”
This ongoing tension between the song’s cosmopolitan concerns and its rural sound is a good part of the charm. The ensemble’s spirited, toe-tapping energy pretty much takes care of the rest. Exactly who the Grown Children are at any one time has not been made clear, it being a name for, basically, whomever shows up and plays with Mees at any given time (more than 20 players are identified, by first name, on the MySpace page). The informality of the gathering, combined with the quality of the musicianship, is, I think, what lends this song its particular flair—it doesn’t sound painstakingly rehearsed as much as spontaneously combusted.
The Portland, Ore.-based Mees originally recorded “Cockleburrs and Hay” (minus one “r”) for his 2007 solo album If You Want to Swim With the Sharks; this is a new and improved version of the song, recorded during a recent studio session and not yet on any album. The group’s first album, Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money, was released in 2008 on Tender Loving Empire.