Vital Vinyl: Spinning Third Man Records’ ‘Language Lessons’ Double-LP Box Set
Jack White has a lot to be proud of this year. From selling out shows across the globe to releasing one of the most highly talked about — and best-selling — records of all-time, ‘Lazaretto,’ the vinyl enthusiast shows no signs of slowing down. Looking to take over another medium, White has created a new publishing arm of his label Third Man Records called Third Man Books. The first release blends both print and wax into a unique box set titled ‘Language Lessons: Volume I.’
Nearly three years in the making, ‘Language Lessons’ is the brainchild of Ben Swank and Chet Weise, co-founder of Third Man Records and professor at Middle Tennessee State University, respectively. Together, and with the help of several talented individuals, Swank and Weise have curated a book full of poetry and prose, and filled two records with genre-spanning music and spoken-word performances. ‘Language Lessons’ is an homage to the talent found in Nashville and the surrounding areas, but doesn’t spend too much time focusing on one genre or format. As Weise eloquently notes in his introduction to the book, “It takes a community to make a scene.” This box set serves as a sort of roadmap to the diverse community found in Nashville.
The book features more than 40 contributors from all walks of life — including musicians, poets and novelists — packed into 321 pages. ‘Language Lessons’ provides a little something for everyone, from a short story about the writer entertaining his first-ever prostitute to a poem about an exterminator, written from the bug’s perspective. “You’re not going to like all of it,” Weise succinctly states. “You’d be a nut job if you did.”
While the two LPs highlight a handful of stellar spoken-word performances that can also be found in the book, the records tend to focus more on an eclectic collection of music. Side A begins with a beautiful reading of ‘The Last Songbird’ by Brian Barker, and then dives into Vox Arcana’s marimba-heavy and jazz-infused song, ‘Soft Focus.’ From jazz to punk to blues and more, ‘Language Lessons’ promotes a mixed bag of Nashvillian music. A few standout tracks include Mystery Twins’ ‘The River,’ a perfect snapshot of Nashville’s indie scene; JP5’s ‘Wait For It,’ an alt-country tune in the same vein as Lucero; and Destruction Unit’s ‘Night Loner’ — a track that takes up the majority of Side D and is a heavy, groovy, noisy track that perfectly sums up the diversity of this box set.
In addition to the book and two records, ‘Language Lessons’ comes packed with five pieces of poetic art ready to be framed and displayed in your home. Everything is housed in a high-quality and subtle black box.
There is no question that Third Man Records has played — and continues to play — a significant role in the great vinyl resurgence, and it seems like Third Man Books is setting out to perform a similar feat in the world of publishing and literature. If the first volume of ‘Language Lessons’ is any indication, Third Man’s latest endeavor has a very bright future ahead.
‘Language Lessons: Volume I’ is available at Third Man Records at 623 7th Avenue South in Nashville, Tenn., as well as online at the Third Man Store. Get all the details right here.