There aren’t many songs about Thanksgiving, and even the songs that mention it aren’t really about the Holiday itself as much as something that happened on it. Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” is a good example. Playing the 18-minute story song about Guthrie getting arrested on Turkey Day is a tradition for certain people not dissimilar to carving the bird or plopping the canned cranberry sauce on a serving tray.
This was the case for the frontman and songwriter of the Austin, TX honky tonk band Mike and the Moonpies. Mike Harmeier’s father is no stranger to those steeped in the Mike and the Moonpies universe. The title track of their 2018 album Steak Night At The Prairie Rose is about Mike’s close relationship with his dad.
“Growing up, I remember my dad playing Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant Massacre,'” Mike recalls. “But he only ever played it on Thanksgiving, every year. I loved the conversational storytelling of that song. It still makes me think of Thanksgiving at home every time I hear it.”
So Harmeier decided to take that inspiration and try to carve out his own Thanksgiving tradition. “Redbird” is a story song about a guy getting robbed while just trying to kick back and enjoy a football game. Ultimately the Thanksgiving tradition of taking in a game of pigskin results in an unlikely friendship. It’s like a Richard Linklater plot from Slacker mixed with a murder ballad with a plot twist, and a Hail Mary saves the day.
The Moonpies first debuted the song on a live session earlier this year, but have now released a studio version on Thanksgiving, hoping to start a tradition of their own. They’ve paired the new song up with a cover of the song “Three Marlenas” by The Wallflowers that they say was recorded during a recent studio session while working on a new album.
The two songs are the second surprise release from Mike and the Moonpies in 2023. They also recently let loose Live from the Devil’s Backbone that’s worth a spin as well. Hopefully though, this is all just the appetizer to a proper new studio album coming in 2024.