The first thing to understand about Grand Ledge is that its reputation as a farm town and bedroom community for Lansing was shattered this past summer by a brutal fight for promotional YouTube video of the year. The contest, sponsored by Ikea (hardly a poster child for independent small business), led Grand Ledge officials into an unfortunate bitch-slap with Lansing's Old Town, a fight benefiting neither combatant.
The first thing to understand about Paul Baribeau is that he spent the late 1990s in Grand Ledge with surf-punk bands and indie wannabes, before deciding the life of a solitary singer-songwriter was better suited to his talents. Baribeau is developing a rabid following via the Internet and national touring, just as former punk labels like Plan-It-X are trying to cash in on the new freak-folk movement. His work, in fact, compares favorably with old hands like John Darnielle of Mountain Goats, and YouTube sensation Deer Tick (whose first semimajor CD was released in early September).
The second thing to understand about Grand Ledge is that the 18-minute, nine-track CD has little to do with the Michigan town, except for the pointillist art of a water tower and railroad trestle on the cover. But the CD has everything to do with traveling and yearning. Unlike Darnielle's scores of region-specific songs, Baribeau keeps to the familiar Michigan landscape and dishes up universal songs of regret and missed opportunities. His second CD is spare solo guitar with no backing, but offers better production than the first eight or 10 Mountain Goats recordings. Standout cuts like "Falling in Love with Your Best Friend" will have locals remembering just what it's like to drive through Lansing at 3 a.m., unable to get a certain song out of your head.
Loring Wirbel hails from Grand Ledge and misses it every day, even in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.
Loring Wirbel originally hails from Grand Ledge and misses it every day, even in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.