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The Heart of Rock and Roll

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In the middle of Long Live All of Us, the latest album by Tennessee band Glossary, is a galloping, soulful rocker titled "When We Were Wicked," in which frontman Joey Kneiser reminisces about the freedom of young adulthood and going to see friends' bands at house concerts.

In a succinct three minutes, the tune nails that rush felt by many of us when we were in our late teens and 20s—a combination of anything-could-happen abandon and a pure devotion to the joy of music.

In the song, Kneiser sings, "Don't you want to feel like we did before/ When time it didn't matter/ Dancing on the porch to the rock 'n' roll/ Made you laugh, made you sing/ Made you feel like you were someone."

It's an experience that many music fans may find familiar, even inducing nostalgia.

"It's about being young and not really having responsibilities yet, being into rock bands, hanging out with your friends in a small town where there aren't that many options," Kneiser, 37, said in a recent phone interview.

"In our town, as I am sure it is in many others, that kind of scene is bigger now than ever, probably because of the bans on smoking in bars, and you have to be 21 and up in get in to them. When you are 18, 19, 20 years old, you need to create your own scene."

Glossary is from Murfreesboro, and back when the band members were in that age range, most of them attended college at Middle Tennessee State University. Under the leadership of Kneiser—who sings, plays guitar and writes most of the songs—and bassist Bingham Barnes, the band formed in the late 1990s, pursuing music full time after graduation.

Kneiser and Barnes had grown up together in eastern Tennessee, in a much more rural atmosphere than Murfreesboro. Both environments partially influenced the music of Glossary.

"Just growing up in eastern Tennessee, I was wanted to make simpler songs about everyday-life kind of people," Kneiser said.

"Then we came to a college town, and got opened up to a lot more music than I had experienced in the past. In the late '90s, we were very much a summation of all the stuff we had been listening to: Pavement, the Pixies, all that '90s indie rock. Then we started getting outside that indie rock bubble, listening to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, all the troubadour singer-songwriters, and trying to integrate that into the college pop sound we were developing."

Kneiser pointed out that Murfreesboro, in addition to being down the road from Nashville, is within driving distance of Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Ala., two important breeding grounds for soul and R&B.

"So we started picking up on the Southern R&B thing that is so strong here historically. The band has always been keenly interested in hearing all kinds of music as we have evolved and progressed, and then trying to absorb the things we like into what we do."

Glossary has released seven albums and its lineup has remained relatively stable since 2000. These days, in addition to Kneiser and Barnes, it includes guitarist Todd Beene, drummer Eric Giles and singer Kelly Kneiser, Joey's ex-wife, with whom he shares many delicious harmonies.

Kelly and Joey were together for 10 years and split up about four years ago, but their musical partnership remained strong, he said.

"We realized our relationship is about so much more than (being married)," he said. "We didn't want to make each other ghosts. Ultimately, I decided I would never want to lose one of my best friends just because we stopped being a couple. And I also didn't want to lose another important thing: one of the greatest feelings in the world is singing with her."

Kneiser said he occasionally has written Glossary songs about his relationship with Kelly, but most of the compositions about their breakup appear on his 2010 solo album, The All-Night Bedroom Revival.

You can download that album free at the band's website (www.glossary.us) as well as the 2010 Glossary album The Better Angels of our Nature and an EP of songs by Kelly Kneiser.

Long Live All of Us, released in 2011, is an homage to the positive, life-affirming nature of rock 'n' roll, Kneiser said.

"Anybody really into music knows it can have this almost religious power. It can take you to a whole new place, or enhance the place you're in. ... Anything can be a religion. All it takes is for it to answer three questions: where you came from, what you do while you're here and what happens to you when you're gone. The best rock 'n' roll does that."

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