51lUOAegnbL._SL500_AA280_I’m not sure why – I can’t put my finger on it, but this is a special album. Released during the long and sometimes dreary winter months, this album immediately gives you warmth. The songs run the gamut of emotions in a way few albums I’ve heard in many years can do.

Stamey’s legend has already been carved several times over – as sideman to Alex Chilton, releasing Chris Bell’s only solo single while Bell was still alive; as founder and leader of The dB’s and with his now three-decades long solo career. But it seems to me, after several listens, this album is his masterpiece. Lovesick Blues is an album for a thinking adult. The lyrics are literary and paint some incredibly vivid word portraits – about love, longing, memory and disintegration. It reads like a novel. I hesitate to use the word, but for all intents and purposes, this is a concept album of cycles: the beginnings, joyful recollections and perspective of a relationship gone away. Stamey’s style is all his own – this is unquestionably his finest, strongest, most cohesive work; with sometimes baroque arrangements, the songs have a delicacy about them. I’m not sure if he’s influenced by (I know, I know) Brian Wilson or Burt Bachrach, but there is so much lush detail in the song structures, it’s hard not to draw those parallels.

Getting back to what I was saying about this album and the idea of “cycles” – the songs could be taken as “morning time” – when a relationship is new; to the afternoon – when the energy and emotions are at a joyful peak to the evening, when it’s all winding down. That was my first impression when I listened to to the album for the first time. And that works hand in hand about how I said this album “reads” – beginning, middle and conclusion. The bleak narrative of “London” from the perspective of a musician on the road and trying to reach his partner hours behind, complete with the sound of a subtle tea kettle whistle (“why don’t you stay home/I’ll call you when I get up/I’ve been thirteen hours on the motorway/I think the bass player quit”) is a musical novella – delicate, with acoustic guitar and strings. The same word applies for “Astronomy” – gentle, wistful (“lying in a field of grass/watching as the clouds go past/emptying the hourglass of time”) – melodic, rich with harmonies and near Beatlesque-psychedelic undertones. However, this album is not without the standard Chris Stamey slice of whimsy – “You & Me & XTC”, which is a classic “road” song (“we hit the road without a plan/trying to find a place to land/and the GPS was set to stun/with no address and no destination”). The clever use of toy piano is another mark of Stamey’s attention to detail in the instrumentation and arrangements. “If Memory Serves” is a wryly clever farewell look at a relationship that’s disintegrated; never maudlin but still with some sense of yearning (“but we must have left out the crucial part”…). The melody is playful, yet the sentiment is a sweet sadness.

This album is filled with emotion, color and the idea that the author – Chris Stamey – has lived it. And for that we can all be grateful. Let this album find a corner in your heart and your head.

About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

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