The Stone Foxes – Small Fires

stone foxesWhat is it in the current music industry that allows undeserving bands to become icons? Why is it that so many other bands that deserve to be icons do not get the notoriety they deserve? Why aren’t the Stone Foxes playing in large arenas in front of Lighter flames and screaming fans? They should be! As for the problems in the music industry, it would take volumes to address that issue. Whatever your favorite flavors of Rock and Roll, the Stone Foxes deliver. This San Francisco Bay area Rock band opens a whole can of whoop ass on their new album “Small Fires.” The blend of Rock styles is delivered in a straight forward package that is reminiscent of days when music didn’t have to sound like it was created in an art school basement, like so much indie rock tries to do these days. To be sure, there is also lyrical depth on “Small Fires,” but the music is front and center. Producer Doug Boehm (who has worked with Dr. Dog among others) and the band together deliver a collection of songs that is evocative of 70’s Album Rock without losing its originality. The album gets started with a very thought-provoking song that intertwines Edgar Allen Poe’s ”Tell-Tale Heart.” From there it moves into the classic Rock song “Ulysses Jones”. My personal favorite song is the Blues infused “Cotto”. The title cut represents an interesting diversion from their typical style. It has a post-punk alternative Vibe. It is a good sign the The Stone Foxes are exploring some new direction on “Small Fires.” Such exploration suggests future growth. On this release, The Stone Foxes display collection of songs that show they have staying power.
Audio Download: The Stone Foxes, "Everybody Knows" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/01%20Everybody%20Knows.mp3]

Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2012, Part 3

ALBUMS OF THE MONTH

In the Dusk of Everything, by Matthew RyanIn the Dusk of Everything There are many artists who are ambitious. Some pursue the thrill of live performances, others strive for financial success. While I can’t say that Matthew Ryan doesn’t harbor some of those motivations, he possesses a more powerful quality – ambition for his music. The album opening instrumental “Lonely Not Homesick” illustrates this point. It is a magnificent orchestral piece that is both brooding and inspiring. Yet it is the intoxicating power of Ryan’s songwriting set against simple acoustic arrangements that sets Ryan apart from his peers. In the Dusk of Everything is an emotional exploration of failed relationships. What sets Ryan apart is his ability to tackle the topic with candor and grace, tending to view them with disappointment rather than regret. Ryan’s whispered vocals, set against a persistent acoustic guitar, give “And So It Goes” a pensive feel. The song finds him speaking to an ex-lover who has returned in an attempt to rekindle the flame. Open wounds have clearly scarred as Ryan declares:

I hold no grudge no more though I did for a couple of years The hate you harbor only welcomes what you fear I wrote this song while the sun fell behind the hill The stars look cold but there's a warm light on the sill
“It Always Rains When You Miss Her” finds Ryan reflecting on a relationship lost. “What was soft is now as sharp as nails,” he sings,
”some storms are born within our own sails.” Some regret, yes, but moreso a recognition that things have irreversibly changed, “she'll say your name again but it will never sound the same, some things we lose are lost but never go away.” Ryan is the victim on “And Its Such a Drag,” lamenting a lover who left the relationship behind when she found some type of professional success. The graceful interplay of acoustic guitar, electric guitar and piano create a delicate background as Ryan sings:
Ah my valentine
 you're poisoned now, seems the heart I knew 
is gone, a plow
 And you can walk away 
like it's such a drag 
that i should have something to say After all that we knew and had, it don't even make you sad
"Amy, I’m Letting Go" touches on the moment of decision in a relationship. “There’s freedom up ahead but it’s a hard curve,” signs Ryan, “there’s a reverb in our hearts that speaks louder than our words.” “Let’s Wave Goodbye” is a fitting conclusion to this masterful release. With music that echoes a standard from bygone era, Ryan puts the past behind:
Let's wave goodbye
to who we were we'll never be that again and it's not without sadness and it's not without tears and it's not without thinking about all the years
that we were that
but not anymore
It is a definitive close that raises questions on where this talented artist will take us next. Time will tell but in the meantime we can continue to savor In the Dusk of Everything.
Audio Download: Matthew Ryan, "And It's Such a Drag" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/04%20-%20And%20It's%20Such%20a%20Drag%20%5BExplicit%5D.mp3]

THE PLAYLIST Danko / Manuel, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (from the Lightning Rod Records release Live From Alabama) Count me among those here at Twangville who are impressed with Isbell's new live release. Recorded this past August in Birmingham Alabama, it perfectly captures the depth and nuance of Isbell’s songwriting. "Danko / Manuel," Isbell’s potent reflection on the musician’s life, is taken to new heights by the 400 Unit and the horn section that joined him and the 400 Unit in Birmingham. In the year that we lost Levon Helm, it is also a fitting reminder of the talent that Helm, Danko and Manuel possessed. See Chip's take here and Eli, Kyle and Todd's "Duct Tape" discussion here.
Audio Download: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, "Danko / Manuel" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/05%20Danko%20_%20Manuel.mp3]
She Has Her Moments, Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil (from the Southern Discipline Recording Co. release Catch the Presidents) Remember what I said last week about the Alabama music renaissance? Here’s further proof. Muscle Shoals’ Doc Dailey, who delivered one of my favorite albums from 2010, is back with another gem. From Dailey’s vocals to his character-driven songwriting to Magnolia Devil’s musical performance, Catch the Presidents overflows with southern authenticity. While much of this release has a relaxed feel, I’m drawn to this song in all its ragged rock glory.
Audio Download: Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil, "She Has Her Moments" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/01%20She%20Has%20Her%20Moments.mp3]
Everybody Lies, Kevin Bowe and the Okemah Prophets (from the Okemah Prophets Records release Natchez Trace) After hearing his music, I suppose that few would not find similarities between Bowe and Paul Westerberg. They share a musical style centered on immensely catchy hooks and sharply written lyrics. Heck, Westerberg even co-wrote this track. Oh, and Nels Cline plays lead guitar. Even without that indie rock calling card this would still be a damn fine release. Bowe serves up rock and roll with a healthy dose of attitude and swagger. Color me impressed.
Audio Download: Kevin Bowe and the Okemah Prophets, "Everybody Lies" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/06%20Everybody%20Lies.mp3]
My Road Now, Paul Westerberg Rock fans rejoice, new Westerberg! In typical Westerberg fashion, this song just suddenly appeared – no context, no explanation. With just a single listen one is immediately reminded of Westerberg's talent. Hopefully this is a sign that more new music is on the way.
This is my road now, and you can stick it honey, no sense in sticking if you’re heart can’t quicken any better than that.
Audio Download: Paul Westerberg, "My Road Now" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/My%20Road%20Now%20(Master).mp3]
Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song), Whitehorse (from the Six Shooter Records release The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss) Whitehorse is the husband and wife team of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. The duo take immaculately crafted pop songs, sweetened with harmonies, and tweak them enough to give the songs an edge. I love the romanticism of this song with its winsome melody and weathered lyrics: "Is it the list and the sway, is it the roll and the pitch, the drunken girl from Mexico or the seven year itch."
Audio Download: Whitehorse, "Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song)" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/03%20Mismatched%20Eyes%20(Boat%20Song).mp3]
Walking in the Green Corn, Grant-Lee Phillips (from the Magnetic Field Recordings release Walking in the Green Corn) Phillips has always been a thoughtful songwriter. His latest release continues the trend as he takes the listener on a lyrical exploration of his Native American and European heritage. Guest Sara Watkins adds her voice and fiddle to this stand-out as Phillips sings, “Blow away black tornado, blow away troubled sky, blow away disappointment, all the worried days gone by. Ready for the crops to ripen, leaving all the rest behind, out come that sun, looking forward to better times.”
Audio Stream: Grant-Lee Phillips, "Walking in the Green Corn" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/10%20Walking%20In%20The%20Green%20Corn.mp3]
The Quiet Life, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson (from the Sugar Hill Records release Wreck and Ruin) Chambers and Nicholson provide further evidence that the simplest songs can be among the most striking songs. The duo’s sweet harmonies set against an ambling melody really hit the mark. "Now and then I’m loving the world again, and I’ll be fine living in the quiet life."
Audio Stream: Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, "The Quiet Life" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/04%20-%20The%20Quiet%20Life.mp3]
How Can You Love Me, Anthony Da Costa (from the self-released Secret Handshake) Sure, I was expecting something a bit more acoustic and folk-based, but that doesn’t mean that I was disappointed with Da Costa’s most recent release. It tends toward the power pop end of the spectrum, but one can hear folk and Americana threads simmering below the surface. Bonus points for the banjo that propels this song.
Audio Download: Anthony Da Costa, "How Can You Love Me" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/05%20How%20Can%20You%20Love%20Me.mp3]
Preachers, My Jerusalem (from The End Records release Preachers) There’s a theatrical quality to My Jerusalem’s music, a bombastic sound that can’t mask the sweet melodies that lurk beneath the surface. This title track is dark, brooding and enjoyably intense.
Audio Download: My Jerusalem, "Preachers" [audio:http://dl.dropbox.com/u/7770435/01%20Preachers.mp3]

Also see Part 1 and Part 2 of the Fall 2012 Playlist.

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