Over the course of the last 42 years, I have loved the music of Chris Stamey – from the first time I ever heard The dB’s to his last “pop” album, Euphoria. During that period of time, he’s released interesting, different and some amazing pieces of work (I have a very deep love and appreciation for his first three solo records and 2013’s Lovesick Blues). This new collection, …The Great Escape is a return to the pop sensibility he’s mastered since his days with Sneakers in the mid-’70’s (after a foray into “neo-standards” with two exquisite albums of original music, scored in a classic style that recalls the ’40’s/’50’s, New Songs For The 20th Century and A Brand-New Shade of Blue).
Recorded at Mr. Stamey’s home studio, Modern Recording, in Chapel Hill, it’s another fine collection of songs that showcases his vast musical scope. It’s a joyful, breezy and cinematic musical excursion, starting with the countrified title track – with the Chris Stamey trademark of pop sensibility mixed with time signature shifts and breaks – and a wonderful mix of slide and banjo runs that make this a tasty starter. “Realize” is (again) a pop gem – a sweet, heartfelt love song that you can’t help but feel uplifted by; “She Might Look My Way” is (of course) an Alex Chilton track (and as it is well-known, Mr. Stamey worked with Mr. Chilton upon the former’s arrival in New York City in the ’70’s, aside from being one of the true “students” of Big Star) and – naturally – Mr. Stamey has done perfect justice to this (hidden) classic.
“Dear Friend” is one of those acoustic gems that hits the listener twice as hard – by the gentility of the music and the poignancy of the lyrics; “I Will Try” is an exquisite vocal exercise, wrapped in Mr. Stamey’s pop mastery; “Greensboro Days” has a great, tempered kind of tension in its acoustic frame and builds into a catchy, driving piece and “The Sweetheart Of The Video” is the album’s magnum opus – at nearly 6 minutes, it’s a piano-based, cinematic/dramatic masterpiece (some very Beatle-esque shades to it).
Chris Stamey consistently hits the mark with each album he does; he doesn’t present the same thing twice and always manages to deliver several instant classics with each release. So you shouldn’t be surprised that I would say to get this album and listen to it without hesitation or fail. And then work your way backward through his catalog.
You can thank me later.
…The Great Escape is currently available