In addition to various, and occasionally exotic, versions of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the first five Diamond Cuts collections featured songs about ballplayers ranging from Harmon Killebrew, Roberto Clemente and Catfish Hunter to John Rocker, Denny McLain and Fred Merkle. The latest installment, Top of the Sixth, more than holds its own alongside its predecessors, thanks to cuts about Pedro Guerrero (courtesy of the perpetually underrated Peter Case), Mickey Mantle, Dizzy Dean (with J.P. McDermott & Western Bop doing a convincing Blasters impersonation), catcher-slash-spy Moe Berg, and former Braves catcher Biff Pocoroba, he of the wonderfully cacophonous name.
But a pair of standout tracks on Top of the Sixth, made by two guys with local connections and shows coming up in the Triangle this week, aren't about real ballplayers.
Chapel Hill native Bill Mallonee, who is playing a show at the Parish Hall of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in downtown Durham on Friday, Feb. 20, says his "You Give It All Your Heart" was inspired by his son's efforts in Little League. But the title could just as easily be a nod to Mallonee's in-studio and on-stage work ethic. The former leader of the Vigilantes of Love, Mallonee has been making gripping roots-pop for 15 years now, displaying a musical and lyrical touch that makes his earnestness and sincerity ring positively true.
Raleigh's Kenny Roby, who plays the late show at The Cave on Wednesday, Feb. 25, is a great storyteller. His contribution, "The Sweep," brilliantly presents the tale of a fictitious Jewish ballplayer from childhood to tormented old age. With references to the House of David team and Hank Greenberg, Roby shows he knows his national pastime lore, and with lines like "Used to sing hallelujah, and often I would sing/Had a sweetheart a long time ago, but we wanted different rings," he demonstrates that he knows his way around a chorus. And musically speaking, the song is a roots-rock marvel, showcasing Scott McCall's darting country-soul guitar fills and sporting rustic, skittering hooks that position the song as a second cousin to Robbie Robertson's "The Weight."
Proceeds from the Bill Mallonee concert will benefit the Urban Ministries of Durham. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for children 6-12. For advance tickets and additional information about the concert, contact St. Philip's at 919-682-5708, extension 17, or by e-mail at email@example.com.