Joel Stein
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Joel Stein


Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"Houston Chronicle"

Houston singer-songwriter Joel Stein has come into his own this year in a variety of ways. The Rice University grad has been teaching guitar and gigging at coffee shops and small dives for quite some time now, but he was catapulted into the national eye in March by Time magazine writer Joel Stein. The columnist spotlighted his musical doppelganger with "An Excuse to Use My Name 16 Times," a humorous look at the two Joel Steins' similarities and differences.

Shortly thereafter, Houston music fans voted Stein Houston's best guitarist in a local poll. He was then featured in the Alley Theatre's fall production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as a jacketed-and-bow-tied minstrel.

Since then, he's released his third record, Marionette, which unveils his maturity and breadth. Stein flirts with many musical styles, flitting energetically and effortlessly from Dylan's poetic storytelling (Sweet on You) to Bowie's epic lyricism (Between the Sun and Showers) to Ben Folds Five's sassy piano-driven jaunts (Aftermath) and all points in between.

Stein was blessed with extremely talented studio musicians, as well. This is most evident with Pomegranate, the opening track with the snaky, sine-wave melody, supported gracefully by drummer Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Duncan Sheik). George Kapsalis' slide guitar provides the alt-country twang on Dress of Indigo, one of the record's strongest songs.

It's not often you find a lyricist as literate as Stein. You Are My Everything is a collection of erudite lyrics revealing an educated songwriter with a sense of humor ("You are my Champs Elysees/You're my Madame Curie/with your radiation heartbreaks and isotopic love/You are my bayou canoe/You're my Nina, my Pinta, my sunken St. Maria").

All told, Marionette is Stein's strongest effort to date, and should provide the momentum needed to truly launch his musical career.
- Melanie Haupt

"Houston Press"

Though he professes to be in touch with his "inner caveman," Joel Stein and his rock and roll musings are anything but Neanderthal. Brimming with electric vitality, insightful lyrics and funky rhythms, Marionette, Stein's latest release, is an enchanting romp through his complex and witty psyche, set to sweet guitar riffs and classically inspired piano interludes.

Trained in music composition at Rice University in the mid-'90s, the Washington, D.C., native left Houston for New York City after graduation. After two years of toughing it out in the East Village scene, Stein returned to the Bayou City, where he has since heated up the local scene with his solo performances. In October he made his acting debut in the Alley's production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, even offering up original songs that he performed on stage as part of the show. This singer-songwriter obviously knows how to blend the past with the present.

Likewise, the songs on Marionette are filled with references to classical texts, the sort of savvy intellectualism that's sorely needed in rock and roll. And unlike most rock on the shelves these days, Stein's songs don't sound identical; each is an individual work of art with a satisfying message, drawing upon his vast influences, from classical music to Bob Dylan, David Bowie and the Velvet Underground.

Although he may aspire to the rarified level of a Dylan or Bowie, Stein prefers to get there by his own path. His live shows are unique, soul-baring experiences, more like an intimate gathering at Stein's home than a traditional club performance. Packed with raw energy and passion, his shows are primal and smart, sure to please both the caveman and his more evolved descendants. - Elizabeth Taischoff


I always believed I was special, thanks to both Mr. Rogers and my own giant ego. Sure, I knew there were other Joel Steins in the world, but I figured none of them were desperately trying to vie for the public's attention by revealing personal details in rhymed couplets. So when a friend told me that a singer-songwriter named Joel Stein has the website, I experienced a profound identity crisis. An identity crisis in that I wanted to make sure I had a better girlfriend, a more successful career and a significantly better middle name. I'm a competitive guy.

But it turned out that visiting was like looking deep into my own soul, which, of course, I enjoyed tremendously. Like me, this Joel Stein was 28, went to college and, even freakier, was also Jewish. His self-description made us seem as one: "It often seems like he's playing for friends in his living room, letting them into his personal visions, sharing jokes and inviting them into his dreams." He boasts of having "Dylan's characterizations, Bowie's surreal sexiness, Woody Guthrie's social criticisms, Paul Simon's intelligent humor and James Brown's down-and-dirty funk." Bowie's surreal sexiness? This was getting eerie.

Listening to his music, I heard the tunes that I would record if I knew how to play guitar. "The sun goes into her room/ and catches the dust in flight/ and gently warms the mattress/ that Katie's resting on./ Carefully she puts down her viola/ next to the kitten on her lap/ and when she wants to say its name/ she remembers it has none./ Uh-huh." I cried a cry that only one Joel Stein can cry for the unnamed cat of another Joel Stein.

But through my tears I realized that I'd be a fool to cede my identity on the world's most powerful medium. So I called The Singing Joel Stein to tell him "this means war/ so don't let your kitten out the door." Despite my intimidation tactics, he said he wasn't willing to give up the domain name. "You could probably get," he offered, like some sleazy real estate agent trying to sell me a beach house 10 blocks from the ocean. This was shaping up as the greatest fight for personal identity since Senator Paul Simon showed up on Saturday Night Live the same night as the singing Paul Simon. As an opening battle cry, I decided to mention in this column in hopes that the site gets so flooded with visits that it freezes up. I don't know if this is how the technology works, but it seems like a good strategy. Also I registered, cleverly utilizing "the" to humiliate my doppelganger.

Then I got an e-mail from The Singing Joel Stein offering me some free CDs, which seemed like an easy way to impress guests when they look at my collection. We even decided to get together next month when he's in New York, which I was getting very excited about. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it was silly to play this ur-genealogy game, expecting someone to heal my existential angst just because their parents were as uncreative as mine. But still, I'm going to go to lunch with him, just to trick him into paying the bill so I can steal his credit-card numbers as part of the easiest scam in history. That way I can rack up enough debt on his credit card to keep him from renewing that domain name.
- Joel Stein (a different Joel Stein)


2007 - Blanco (Green Zebra)
2000 - Marionette (GoldRhyme)
1996 - In the Time of the Home Parade (GoldRhyme)
1995 - Please Forward (GoldRhyme)



The songs of New York singer-songwriter Joel Stein reflect an eclectic range of influences. Recently, his long-time guitarist and collaborator, George Kapsalis, described Joel's new songs as "Coldplay meets Cat Stevens." The Houston Chronicle says Joel “flirts with many musical styles, flitting energetically and effortlessly from Dylan's poetic storytelling to Bowie's epic lyricism to Ben Folds Five's sassy piano-driven jaunts and all points in between.”

A demo Joel recorded in college caught the attention of GoldRhyme Records, and the songwriter signed with the Texas indie label while still a music composition student at Rice University, in Houston. The relationship saw the subsequent recording of three CD's of original alternative folk-rock. Joel and GoldRhyme parted ways soon after the release of his third CD, Marionette, which was recorded with drummer Matt Johnson (John Mayer, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright), bassist Jeff Allen (Duncan Sheik), and produced by Brad Albetta (Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright).

Joel has been featured in TIME magazine, voted "Best Houston Guitarist" by Ticketmaster/, and nominated "Houston Songwriter of the Year" by them as well. He has garnered six ASCAP Awards for his songwriting, performed at the CMJ Music Marathon and Songwriters Hall of Fame showcases in New York City, and appeared on a national tour with the Three Irish Tenors.

Joel’s live shows range from intimate acoustic folk numbers to full-out loud, rocking renditions. Whether solo or backed by a killer band, Joel is attracting captivated audiences across the USA and Europe.