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You can listen to “Bright Spark (See What I Mean)” and the rest of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 streaming on kxt.org.

MARIE: Charging out of the gate on the heels of a driving jungle beat, “Bright Spark” tells the tale of man adrift in an impossibly dismal, sunless world. Trapped in his own dreary state of mind, he’s just going through the motions of his bleak existence until the day he meets the one, his spark who delivers him from his monotony. She’s a beacon whose very presence restores bright hues to his dull, gray life.

It’s a big ole mess of brick and stone
Was a nightmare when I was on my own
Yeah she showed up and it’s okay
Now I don’t mind if the sky is gray
The rain falls down on this dirty old town
She’s the only shine I see
See what I mean

Hooray for love!! As one who is lucky enough to have found her True North, I get this. How the universe is sweeter knowing he’ll walk through the door, filling my heart with that big, warm smile of his, dissolving all the crap of the day.

But wait, don’t think for a minute the 97’s have gone all soft and gooey with a love-conquers-all number. This ode to love comes wrapped in a hard-driving, thunderous rock anthem and a growl. Just the way this wrecker likes it.

My husband and I were treated to a premiere performance of “Bright Spark” in 2009 during the CF Concert at the Granada shortly after Rhett’s month-long European tour with Steve Earle. I respectfully kept this under wraps for two years. It’s nice to be able to share it now that the 97’s have recorded it. The tempo and tone have changed some and there’s a slight tweak to the third verse, but other than that it has remained the same. I liked it then. I really like it now.

STEPHANIE: For forty hours every week, I put on my business casual costume and sit in a windowless office where I stare at a monitor under fluorescent lights. Why would I do that? Because “man can’t live on love alone.” It’s called work for a reason and at some point, the daily grind gets the best of all of us. Even the seemingly glamorous job of rocking out for adoring fans will occasionally chip away at the spirit of a touring musician.

We all do the thousand yard stare
Shuffling around ain’t goin’ nowhere
Crowds roll in, and they do it again
Nothing’s gonna break this routine
See what I mean?!

What’s the point of going on? Love, love, love.

Here she comes my girl
Bright spark in a dark world

The chorus seems to share the cadence and sentiment of Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl.” Unlike Petty’s brilliant but mellow classic, “Bright Spark” is a powerhouse from start to finish.

As a part-time girly-girl, I can be a sap for a sweet, melodic love song, but this love song is gritty and exciting, appealing to my inner rocker-chick. Love is life-affirming and sometimes a sweet melody isn’t enough to convey it’s power over the oppressive doldrums of existence. “Bright Spark” will become a Friday afternoon staple, pouring into my head through earbuds like an IV delivering the healing promise of a weekend with the one I love.

JEFF: Ten tracks in and it’s time to remind everyone just how important Philip remains to these affairs. It’s about love. It’s a metaphor for the irresistible, inevitable need to rock. It’s like Buddy Holly drank too much mescal and passed out behind Gruene Hall, then woke up and stumbled down to the river to find the sun-kissed sorority girl of his dreams tubing by with an ice chest full of Lonestar tallboys. “Bright Spark,” indeed.

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