Monday, February 4, 2013

REVIEW: Chris Stamey - Lovesick Blues

Chris Stamey has long been one of my favorites -- a gifted songwriter, performer, producer and tastemaker -- in my view every bit as significant a musical beacon as T-Bone Burnett or Don Was. But Stamey opted for a lower profile decades ago when he left the bright lights / big city of New York City for Chapel Hill NC. Since then, Stamey has made his own records, while on the production side worked mainly with local artists, playing a large role in the artistic and commercial development of fellow Tar Heels Ryan Adams and Tift Merritt. Of course Stamey is best known as a founding member of The dBs, whose reunion record Falling Off the Sky topped my best of 2012 list.  

Lovesick Blues is not a sort of dBs solo record, as few of these songs would have fit in with the power pop, bar band vibe there.  This is a sophisticated art-pop affair, with help from the North Carolina Symphony and many others. It's a modern day Phil Spector or Brian Wilson record - carefully crafted, richly textured, whip-smart and gorgeous sounding.

Let's listen to the opening track "Skin":

XTC's like-minded pop avatar Andy Partridge consulted with Stamey on the record, and served as an inspiration for one of my favorite songs here "You n Me n XTC" about a long road trip where XTC held forth on the car stereo.

Honoring Picasso, Dean Smith or both? 
Another standout is "Anyway", which channels a latter day R.E.M. song like "At My Most Beautiful" channeling Big Star channeling Brian Wilson. The search for the perfect pop sound goes on....

Stamey's bio says: “I wanted to make a record that could make you feel less alone, like someone else has been there before you. I was thinking about records like The Ballad of Todd Rundgren and Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter and Robert Wyatt’s “At Last I Am Free” and Richard Thompson’s Small Town Romance. Those are all records that were a source of comfort to me at various points in my life. They were records that seemed to speak one-on-one, records that weren’t trying to sell you anything."

And Stamey achieved that intimacy and emotional connection throughout, but particularly on the title track "Lovesick Blues", equally beautiful and bittersweet. This title track is a very moving song that Stamey says is dedicated to his friend, the late Sam Moss, a North Carolina guitarist:

Every song on this record will reveal itself more to you with repeated listenings. Stamey put a tremendous amount of careful thought and high craft into Lovesick Blues, and any work that the listener puts into this record will be rewarded.  

Artist web page:  

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