Chris Stamey
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Chris Stamey

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Chris Stamey @ Private Show, Texas, USA, Texas, USA

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The best kept secret in music


CHRIS STAMEY "Travels in the South"Yep Roc

Even when accompanying such unpredictable performers as Alex Chilton or Bob Mould, Chris Stamey was always a formalist. The two brilliant albums he made with the dBs in the early '80s are marvels of propulsion, pitting classic pop-rock tunes and themes against the funkier, jazzier predilections of New York's then-cresting no wave. But most of the singer-guitarist's solo work is as overly meticulous as it is appealingly melodic. Now, after years of working primarily as a producer, the North Carolina native has released "Travels in the South," his first collection of new songs since 1991. It's clever, charming and a bit stiff.

Stamey, who knows his own strengths, opens with the most immediate tune, "14 Shades of Green." This jangly, upbeat rocker recounts a string of adolescent memories, from "here's where we fell in love" to "here's where we robbed that store." Most of the other 11 songs are more abstract: "Kierkegaard" contemplates the existence of God with the help of "Pet Sounds"-style harmonies, while "In Spanish Harlem" pays detached tribute to Phil Spector's early recordings. The Beach Boys and Ben E. King are logical touchstones for Stamey, but "Travels in the South" also includes some unexpected elements: There are jazzy keyboard licks and a drum solo, and Stamey plays some Allman Brothers-style passages. Yet even these surprises are incorporated into the sort of tidy pop tunes that should please Stamey's admirers, but leave everyone else waiting for emotional payoffs that seldom arrive.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Thursday at IOTA. • To hear a free Sound Bite from Chris Stamey, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8109. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


  - Washington Post

Chris Stamey

Travels in the South

Yep Roc

Travels in the South is North Carolina native Chris Stamey's first collection of new music since 1991. He's kept himself busy in the intervening years, mostly as a producer for Carolina-based artists like Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell. Those two help Stamey dip his foot back into the performing waters here, along with Ryan Adams, Don Dixon, Ben Folds, Tift Merritt and Peter Holsapple (Stamey's former partner from the '80s band The dBs.) The result is an impressive collection of music and a welcome return.

"14 Shades of Green" is an upbeat, trumpet-backed opener that finds Stamey reminiscing about adolescence. "Here's where we went to class / A hundred hours a day / Here's where we smoked grass / And laughed our cares away," he sings.

From there, things get a little heavier. He ponders "if there's no God" on "Kierkegaard," set against a lush, Beach Boys-inspired soundscape. Stamey pays tribute to Phil Spector's early recordings on "In Spanish Harlem." And if you need any further indication of where Stamey's musical inclinations lay, there's a pretty ballad here called "And I Love Her" (though it's not the Beatles song of the same name). It's clear from listening to Travels in the South that Stamey also appreciates everything from prog rock to the experimental guitar stylings of Television's Richard Lloyd.

Elsewhere, "The Sound You Hear" has a stellar guitar solo, nice harmonies and a big sound. But the '60s psychedelia-inspired "Ride" sounds like the very definition of over-produced. There may be a song buried in there somewhere, but you have to listen pretty hard to find it. And the album unfortunately peters out with not one but two jazzy instrumentals (one featuring a drum solo, of all things) and a couple of atmospheric but unexciting ballads.

Still, Travels in the South reminds us of Stamey's past glories and forges some interesting new musical ground. In the record's best moments, he takes the sounds he grew up with in the '60s and combines them in intriguing and original ways. A mature effort from one of southern jangle pop's elder statesmen.

Chris Stamey: Yep Roc:

Sean Slone
- Ink 19

Chris Stamey's been working the producer's side of the studio glass (Whiskeytown, Ben Folds, Squirrel Nut Zippers) for so long that practically an entire generation's come of age unaware of his recorded legacy. This founding member of the Sneakers and dB's, two against-the-grain power pop bands from the Seventies and Eighties, still has plenty of inner melody deserving to be heard on his first solo album in twelve years. Stamey's accompanied by an all-star cast -- former Jayhawks keyboardist Jen Gunderman, Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, Ryan Adams and producer Don Dixon -- who crank it out on a grand scale similar to that of the E Street Band. The opening cuts "14 Shades of Green" and "Kierkegaard" ring forth with a Spectorian wall of guitar, keyboards and harmony vocals. However, Stamey's nasal southern drawl is best preserved with spare arrangements, as the lonely pedal steel of "Insomnia" hauntingly points up. (ROB O'CONNOR)
(Posted Jun 14, 2004)


Chris Stamey- Travels in the South


Feeling a bit camera shy


Chris Stamey is one of those minor geniuses whose contributions could get lost in the shuffle. Rock cognoscenti know him as one of the founding members of the legendary 80s North Carolina-to-Hoboken pop band the dB's, and as a member of Alex Chilton, Bob Mould and Golden Palominos, while today's younger fans probably recognize his name from the many artists like Alejandro Escovedo, Whiskytown, Caitlin Cary, that he has produced. His new album Travels in The South ( 6/15 Yep Roc) features guest appearances from an array of talented friends, including Ryan Adams, Ben Folds, Tift Merritt, Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, as well as fellow Southern-pop kingpins Peter Holsapple and Don Dixon. The album also employs a core group of musicians who've long been part of Stamey’s creative team, including Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, ex-Jayhawks keyboardist Jen Gunderman, local guitar ace Brian Dennis, ex-Backslider and Trembler Danny Kurtz, and Greg Readling of Tift Merritt’s band the Carbines—a group loosely dubbed "the Mod Squad," in honor of Stamey’s Chapel Hill-based studio, Modern Recording. Take a little bit of The Carolinas home today. Booking solo, full band ( The Chris Stamey Experience) and soon back together with Peter!