Story Time With Jonel: “The Gospel of The Hold Steady” Book Review
Most bands won’t sell out stadiums or big arenas. Most won’t be that “hot new thing” that mass audiences go wild over. A lot of bands don’t make it out of the local bars. Heck, a lot of bands don’t make it out of their garage. It’s the love of music that keeps them going. The camaraderie, the creative outlet, the gift of making joyous sounds. The Hold Steady is a band that has played some pretty big places to some pretty big audiences. They’ve amassed a pretty big fan base too. But if you know anything about the band, you get the feeling that they’d be doing it even if they had to strictly do it in bars. The Hold Steady do it for the love of the game. The love of music.
“A Book is a Dream That You Hold in Your Hand”
2023 marks the 20th Anniversary of The Hold Steady. To celebrate these first twenty-years, they’ve released a book titled, “The Gospel of The Hold Steady: How a Resurrection Really Feels”. Part band history, part testimonial and full of fantastic pics that jump off the page, “The Gospel of The Hold Steady” is a wonderful tribute to the band and the fans who’ve been behind them. Author Michael Hann has done a bang-up job of coordinating the elements that make this book such a cool offering. Seemingly everyone who’s been associated with The Hold Steady are interviewed in the book, along with insight from their peers and testimonials from their fans about what the band has meant to them. Like The Hold Steady band itself, the book is joint effort aimed toward the greater good. Which, in this case, is to recognize a group that deserves recognition in the landscape of American rock music.
Discovering The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady are a rock band from Brooklyn, NY via Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ve been a fan since I saw their name in a now defunct rock music magazine (I think it was Blender, if anyone remembers that one) as a new band you “have to check out”. They recommended listening to their latest-at-the-time single, “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”. I loved it from jump. Investing in the album that featured that track, Separation Sunday, set me on a path to fandom that I scarcely found myself on at that point in time. I was just in my 30s, a lifelong music fan, jaded at the state of rock music and the world in general. Typical adult angst. The Hold Steady made me feel like I could embrace new music again. Like someone was out there writing songs that I identified with. And it’s the songwriting that’s really key to appreciating The Hold Steady.
I’m a Sucker For Great Lyrics
In 2017, about a year after starting here at WRIF, The Hold Steady’s lead singer, guitarist, and principle lyricist, Craig Finn, had a solo record out called We All Want The Same Things. The tour for that album brought him to The Shelter at St. Andrew’s Hall and I got to have a short chat with him. I expressed my admiration for his songwriting and told him that when I listened to The Hold Steady, I’d say to myself, “Those are the drinks that we drank, those are the drugs that we did, those are the people we know.” I told him the themes were universal. He agreed and told me that when they started the band, he knew he wanted to tell stories about people they knew. He then said they found that, “If you’re doing it right, someone from Pittsburgh or Portland or Alaska should be able to hear it and say, ‘I know what that feels like’. Even if they don’t know that specific street corner.” I reposted that original interview with Craig from 2017 at the bottom of this article, if you’d care to take a listen.
Relative Album Cover Connection
Another cool connection with the band came as a surprise to me. I learned that a cousin of mine who used to live in New York was friends with friends of the band and had kicked it with them a handful of times. She was even pictured on the back cover of their 2006 album, Boys and Girls in America. Even cooler still is that when the band reissued the album for its 10th Anniversary in 2016, my cousin Danielle was in the feature pic on the album cover. It’s pretty cool having a framed album cover with your cousin on it hanging on your wall.
Buy This Book, Know This Band
If you’re a rock fan, if you’re a pop culture fan, if you’re a fan of books in general, you’d be doing yourself a favor picking up “The Gospel of The Hold Steady”. It’s already become a favorite amongst the books in my personal library and I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it too. Happy reading! And as The Hold Steady say, stay positive.
You can get your own copy of “The Gospel of The Hold Steady: How a Resurrection Really Feels” on Amazon, wherever books are sold, or at the band’s official website here… https://theholdsteadymerch.net/products/the-gospel-of-the-hold-steady
Check out Jonel’s 2017 interview with The Hold Steady’s lead singer, Craig Finn, here… https://wrif.com/2017/10/25/craig-finn-interview/