"Tim is like a two-sport star with his music and baseball... and he can do it well."
Tim Flannery’s life has revolved around three constants: family, baseball, and music. These three simple things have become a kind of holy trinity for Flannery, or Flan as most folks call him. This triad has fortified him since he could swing a bat. He found his calling(s) among them, and he’s carved out legacies. When asked which one means more to him, he’ll ask you to choose air, water, or food. For Flan, it’s all or nothing.
It’s a miracle that Waiting on a Miracle exists at all, as the new album by Tim Flannery and the Lunatic Fringe. Despite a global pandemic, war, social upheaval, wildfires, a nearly lethal infection, and a long recovery, Tim Flannery is miraculously still standing. Tim says, “Someone once told me, ‘Miracles only come to those who believe in them.’” If that’s true, maybe miracles are merely waiting for us to notice their constant presence.
Waiting on a Miracle is an electric hymn to those daily miracles, from the Grand Canyon stars that grace the album cover, to the love and music that transform trouble. Its rocking Americana has roots in Appalachia and Ireland, outlaw country and the Cherokee heritage of Tim’s grandmother. Waiting on a Miracle turns hard times into the most inspired and edgy music of the band’s career, after twenty years and fourteen albums together.
The album aptly begins with “Last Man Standing,” Tim’s remembrance that at any moment, each of us might end up the last of our clan alive, before surrendering our brief precious life to eternity. “River of Time” follows, its relentless groove singing of our place within the context of a thousand generations. It’s the first of two songs by Mohican musician and artist Bill Miller, and a song that often opens the Lunatic Fringe’s live shows.
The title track, “Waiting on a Miracle,” deepens an album filled with the most soulful and deep vocals of Tim’s life. As guitarist Doug Pettibone said to Tim, “When you were on the other side, you traded your voice with someone and brought back a better one.” Nearly lethal experiences also clarify what is precious, whether the crisis is illness or wildfire, as Tim sings of in “Hold the Line on the Horizon” and “Compass.” Yet affirmation is within our constant questioning. “Does the compass that you carry/Get you lost or lead you home?
Recent times led one of Tim’s most inspiring musical friends home. After Jerry Jeff Walker passed, Tim was asked to sing Jerry Jeff’s song “The Last Song” at his memorial service—the song that closes this album. The memorial service fulfilled one of Tim’s hallucinatory hospital visions, of playing with Bob Weir and Jimmy Buffett. After the service was over, Steve Earle took Tim aside, saying he’d had a near death experience similar to Tim’s. Steve said he’s amused when people ask him why God brought him back.“Who the f— are we to know why we were brought back? I guess we’d better just show up every day and see.”
Tim Flannery and the Lunatic Fringe keep showing up to make music and serve the Love Harder Project, the anti-violence foundation Tim and Donna Flannery founded. The band recorded Waiting on a Miracle live in the studio, right after road-testing the songs on tour. That gives the album an aliveness only a live band can offer.
The Lunatic Fringe’s core has stayed steady for a couple of decades, and Waiting on a Miracle features the deep talents of Jeff Berkley (guitars, vocals, and producer), Doug Pettibone (guitars), Shawn Rohlf (bass, mandolin, and banjo), Josh Weinstein (keyboards), Chris Grant (drums) and Tim Flannery (vocals and acoustic guitars). Last band standing, for one more precious moment.
Today’s new miracles arrive, waiting for all of us to notice.