Stuart McNair Band
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Stuart McNair Band

New Orleans, LA | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

New Orleans, LA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Americana Country

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"Building a Fire is a much-needed reemergence of heartfelt, quality Southern music. It's an impressive combination of folk, bluegrass, and alt. country....akin to the likes of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, with a hint of Simon and Garfunkel."

- Datelinealabama.com
"He could be on the airwaves in an instant. Or with the right support, he could be the next alt-country darling, alongside Ryan Adams and Wilco"

- City Magazine, Tuscaloosa, AL
"Cosmic thoughts and unforgettable, beautiful songs...a bit like Johnny Cash singing the Upanishads."

- Mobile Bay Monthly
"Destined for Alternative Greatness"

- Muse's Muse Online Reviews - Various


Stuart McNair - Growing A Garden
2008, Stuart McNair

Birmingham, Alabama based Stuart McNair explores traditional Country music themes and values as well as Earth-friendly topics on his debut CD, Growing A Garden. Recorded live, in-studio with just McNair, his guitar and harmonica, listening to Growing A Garden is like having McNair over for a house concert. The organic feel of the album and the honest, down-home songwriting and performance lend a certain charm to the 18 songs presented here.

Growing A Garden opens with The Birds Were Like A Symphony, a song of appreciation for the beauty of nature, and the way that the Earth around us every day can surprise us when we simply take the time to notice. McNair's voice is strong and clear and has a rugged beauty to it. Man On A Mission has an autobiographical element to it, explaining perhaps, why McNair makes music. There's a great classic folk sound here and McNair reminds me heavily of David Matheson on this song. Somewhere In The Middle is a personal favorite, probably the best "opposites attract" song I've heard. I guarantee you there will be couples out there that claim this song as their own. It's not a humorous song, per se, but you can't help but chuckle at some of the truths unveiled here.

Don't Worry is a highly positive message set to music; a song about change and being yourself and letting the big things settle themselves out. It's not an invitation to disengage from life, rather one to engage and let the tides come and go ("One day I decided to be free/One day I decided to be me/One day I finally took my place/not ashamed to wear a smile on my face/and you'll be smiling a lot when you get the word / God loves every dog, cat, fish and bird/He walks right beside you and you've never been apart/so don't worry, worry, worry too much with your pretty little heart.") Hearts Don't Lie speaks to the inner voice that we sometimes call our heart and how it never lets people down even when they fail to listen.

You Need To Be Danced With is destined for mix-tapes everywhere. Don't be surprised if this song gets licensed for Television or Movies, as it is probably one of the most romantic love songs I've heard. As is it could be a hit on country radio and quite possibly cross over to pop radio as well. Grow The Garden is all about tending the future through the actions of today, and could be applicable to personal growth, societal growth or even growth in a relationship. It's a beautiful song and well delivered. Didn't Know You Then is a powerful song about forgiveness and accepting people for who they are and not necessarily for who they once were. Walking With Jesus has the feel of a modern folk hymn; more of a story song than what passes for contemporary Praise music. The most interesting aspect of McNair's music may be the role that faith plays in his songs. It's obvious that faith is a large part of McNair's mindset, and he sings about it as he feels moved in his songwriting in much the same way that James Taylor sings about love; it just happens to be what's on his mind. Be sure also to check out You Make Me Smile, I'll Be Back, Eating Me and How YOU Do It.

Stuart McNair is an honest songwriter who writes what he knows. There's no attempt to put forth a persona here, McNair is what he is, take it or leave it. The image that comes across is a singer/songwriter who is happy with his lot in life; happy with who he is, and happy to share his stories with any who will listen. McNair touches on elements of life, love, faith and our communion with nature. How McNair isn't highlighting major folk festivals across North America I don't know, but I suspect the time will come. In simple, straight-forward fashion, McNair has created an album that should establish him as one of the best young talents in folk music, bar none. Growing A Garden is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc, and highly recommended to anyone who will listen.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5) - Wildy's World, www.wildysworld.com


“Building a Fire” Makes Its Mark

By Frank Daugherty
(originally appeared in Mobile Bay Monthly, Nov 2005)

Singer/ Songwriter Stuart McNair Will Go Far

What do people in Germany and Australia know about singer/
songwriter Stuart McNair that many Mobile Bay residents don’t
know yet?

They know that the Mobile native’s new CD, “Building a Fire,” is something to write home about. McNair’s CD is a breath of fresh air, and it’s startling that songs so much about the feeling
of being young RIGHT NOW can also seem so classic.

“Most of my feedback has been from overseas,” says the 28-
year-old McNair, who has been fl ooded with e-mails from Scotland,England and many other countries since the CD appeared
in 2004.

When “Memphis,” a song from “Building a Fire,” was
included on a compilation CD put out by the Woodsongs Old
Time Radio Hour called “Acoustic Rainbow,” McNair got airplay on 1300 radio stations worldwide. It wasn’t long before radio stations
overseas starting contacting him to request the complete
CD.

“They want the full-length album so they can play more
of my music,” McNair said. “It shows that genuine American
music that has some authenticity continues to be well received
in other countries.”

McNair describes his songwriting as “Roots” or “Americana.”
This covers a number of traditional U.S. styles ranging from bluegrass and zydeco to mountain music and blues. “A lot of people in the Roots or Americana style, they see themselves as guardians of the ‘real’ style. But I’m not a historian. I take the
style and instrumentation and blend them.”

Several of the songs are dead-on hit material, especially “Come to Caroline,” “Alabama,” and “Millions.” The more you listen
to these carefully-written songs and their great refrains, the catchier they are. “Alabama” is the best state song we’ve had since Lynard Skynard, only cooler and hipper–Alabama in 2005.

The lyrics and sweet rendition contain glints of Jim Croce and
1960s social protest: “She called me and I came/ Alabama/
but now she don’t look the same...Alabama/ she takes losing
so hard.” McNair explains that the song criticizes the ongoing
devastation of the natural beauty of the state. “Even when I was at the University of Alabama, there was a war against old trees, and mercury halogen lights were creating light pollution
all over campus. In Shelby County green hills are being turned into red clay and then subdivisions. This is happening all over the state”

McNair describes other songs as one-time snapshots. In
“Come To Caroline,” the narrator has picked up an 18-year-old
hitchhiker near Los Angeles, fallen in love, and is now desperate
to persuade her to continue eastward as a rift between
the two looms. The words are bittersweet, the singer puts his
“boot through a color TV,” and yet the girl and boy are full of
sap and life is full of possibilities.

This and most of the other songs have a Nashville/country/
folk tinge to them that is rendered slightly ironic by the educated
and articulate lyrics. Among other things, McNair is a
poet with a degree in English from the University of Alabama.
For a young man who grew up in Midtown, graduated from
Murphy high school, and comes from a family rooted in Mobile,
country music is just as much an assumed role as it was for
Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello.

McNair’s easy mastery of diverse musical styles is based on
long years of apprenticeship, hard work and fi rst-hand experience.
As a teenager he marched in the Murphy band and
participated in talent shows and the Mobile Pops orchestra.
He was leader of the trumpet section in the University of Alabama’s
Million Dollar Band, then was invited to join “Pain,” a
band with a “huge following” in Tuscaloosa. “I was in Pain for
three years. We toured the country extensively and I played
in every major metropolitan area in the U.S. It was music with
a harder edge–punk and ska. It was a whirlwind education for
me. I learned about the music business, what the road is like,
and how to record a CD. They recorded three CDs while I was
with them, and I was thinking of a career playing trumpet.”
But along about the time Pain split up, McNair shifted his
focus toward being a singer/ songwriter. “I decided the message
of a poem combined with a melody was what I wanted
to work with.” In 2000 he recorded a humorous CD entitled “I
Can’t See Over the Accordion” that received a lot of radio play
and was aired on the “Dr. Demento Show.” He also fronted a
four-piece rock band called “Red Label Revolver” which played
at the Bay Fest.

McNair then decided to move from Tuscaloosa to the Birmingham
area and away from his past projects. “ I went back
to using my own name and started in a new direction.” Though
McNair notes his poetry is “very separate” from his songwriting,
his sharp lyrics live up to his definition of a good poem: “A
clear nugget or gem of a thought in the most clear, succinct,
distilled and simplifi ed form.” This holds for his narrative ballads
like “Can’t Be Good,” about a man down on his luck and in
need of a hot meal; “Memphis,” about separation on the runway;
or “Persephone,” about the cycles of nature and returning
home–a Greek archetype realized in everyday Alabama. Scattered
throughout the CD are quite a few biblical references to
“walking on water” and “getting closer to the light.”
“Jesus fi gures in a lot of the songs because he’s a great
spiritual teacher,” says McNair. “I’ve spent a lot of time reading
spiritual materials and done a lot of reading and research
in nearly every major spiritual tradition.”

These cosmic thoughts culminate in the unforgettable and beautiful song “Millions,” which is a bit like Johnny Cash singing the
Upanishads. The song overcomes all the listener’s defenses
with its down-to-earth language, earnest sincerity, off-kilter
drum beat, haunting female background vocals, and heartbreaking
trumpet passages. “Millions and millions and millions/
of lives have all been spent/ without no rent/ they didn’t have
to pay no rent.” Even if Stuart McNair were to never write another song, he will have made his mark with this one.

McNair said that “Building a Fire” received nationwide radio promo- tion on 300 stations and ended up on the Americana, AAA and NPR charts. Right now he’s planning his next CD, which he says
will be more political, and his next career steps. Residing in
Montevallo, McNair plays six nights a week in Birmingham and
Montgomery, everything from bars to wedding receptions to
private parties. But soon, he says, “I want to move into a
phase where I’m on the road a lot and can expand into Nashville,
Atlanta and the Carolinas.” He also wonders if the overseas
market might end up being his strong suit, and he’s working
with booking agencies in other countries.

No matter where the road might lead, though, McNair says,
“I feel more connected to Mobile and the Gulf Coast than any
other place.” McNair’s Mobile roots are evident in a sort of
genteel thoughtfulness on the phone that is not quite identical
with the various Alabama personae of his songs and stage
presence. Wherever McNair goes, he’ll take Mobile with him. It
looks as though he’ll be going far. - Mobile Bay Monthly


Stuart McNair - Building a Fire

3.25/4.0

(originally appeared in City Magazine, 1/20/05 )

Perhaps the most satisfying thing in listening to music is unwittingly stumbling upon the artist that’s on his or her way up, undiscovered and still unspoiled by success. I don’t mean to oversell the likelihood that Birmingham musician Stuart McNair is headed for the big time, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

If you’re skeptical about his chances, then listen to “Come To Caroline,” the first track off his most recent solo outing, Building A Fire, and just try to disagree.

Already a seasoned veteran in his own right, McNair has played with more than his share of musicians, including stints with the offbeat rock troupe Pain, and at the front of the rock band Red Label Revolver.

Though he utilized a rather large cast of supporting musicians for the recording of Building A Fire — including Chinese Dentist drummer Rusty Kyzer — this is a solo project all the way, allowing McNair’s conversational style of singing and upbeat, almost country-flavored songwriting to shine.

What probably works best in McNair’s favor is his appeal. With a little polish, he could be on the airwaves in an instant. Or with the right support, he could be the next alt-country darling, alongside Ryan Adams and Wilco. — Carter Davis

- Tuscaloosa City Magazine


Stuart McNair an Americana Niche in Crowded Country Scene

(originally appeared online at http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/)

Stuart McNair's second album "Building a Fire" offers an escape from the southern-music mainstream. Photo courtesy of StuartMcNair.com

"Building a Fire" can be purchased online at www.cdbaby.com or at McNair's shows for $10.

Aside from his solo career, McNair is also the front man for "The Stuart McNair Band" with Walon Smith, Leif Bondarenko and Carlos Pino, but still performs solo at most shows.

Mike Faulk, staff reporter
November 12, 2004
Stuart McNair's second album "Building a Fire" offers an escape from the southern-music mainstream.

Singer/songwriter and University of Alabama alumnus Stuart McNair has recently released a new album titled "Building a Fire," a 14-track trek into modern folk, bluegrass and alternative country.

The first instrument Stuart McNair ever played was an old piano his grandmother owned. Now he plays piano, accordion, guitar, trumpet, organ and the flugelhorn -- just to name a few.

After touring for three years with the band “Pain,” a nationally acclaimed group, McNair went solo with his first album “I Can't See Over the Accordion” that was hailed by some as a triumph, making him destined for alternative greatness. The sound and mood of most of the songs on the 24-track album were clearly influenced by his experience with Pain while others on the album (like “Blackberry Wine” and “Highway Song”) displayed his abilities as a folk singer and songwriter.

Now, years later, at the age of 28, McNair has released his second album “Building a Fire” with an impressive combination of folk, bluegrass and alternative country. The album is an excellent recourse for those who are fed up with the insincerity (Toby Keith) and melodrama (Gretchen Wilson) of modern mainstream Southern music. Stuart is more akin to the likes of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, with a hint of Simon & Garfunkel.

Songs on the album like “No Emergency” and “Building a Fire” keep an upbeat tone, but even those with a more serious air still manage to impress listeners with sincerity and ingenuousness. McNair has accomplished this because he isn't an artist who likes to make a profit off of his whining -- he just likes to create and perform.

The variation in subjects and tones of McNair's songs contributes to his originality. He has a sound so original the only genre it could be classified in is Americana. This is reflected in the pride he takes as an artist; he wants to do more with his music than just being a popular success.

McNair said he has noticed political trends in this country moving farther to the extreme right-wing and has written more politically aggressive charged songs as a response. He has made it his mission to represent what he calls the “Opposition” to what is happening and hopes this effort will contribute to a more “intelligent, compassionate and understanding” government.

McNair performs almost 200 to 250 shows each year across Alabama and the Southeast. Most shows are at restaurants, bars and clubs, but he says he doesn't mind having small audiences.

“I'd rather be playing small and learning my craft more than not playing at all,” McNair said.

Undoubtedly, McNair's popularity will spread with the more airtime he receives and the more people listening to his music. Like a soft-spoken Phoenix rising up from the ashes of the once-storied folk singers whose names are now picked up by others for their own profit (Hank Williams Jr.), McNair's album “Building a Fire” is a much-needed reemergence of heartfelt, quality Southern music. - Tuscaloosa News


Discography

"Building a Fire", full length, Copyright 2004, ASCAP. It peaked on the AAA/NPR charts at 144.
http://cdbaby.com/cd/stuartmcnair

"Growing a Garden". Copyright, 2008, ASCAP.
http://cdbaby.com/cd/stuartmcnair2

"Climbing a Mountain"
Copyright 2009, ASCAP.

Photos

Bio

Stuart McNair
Americana, Bluegrass, Country, Zydeco

The Stuart McNair represents the best in American songwriting and performing. He performs solo, with duos and small ensembles, or with his full band, a cast of the South's finest and most versatile players. Stuart's three full length CD's showcase his unique songwriting and skills on multiple instruments.

Stuart covers artists ranging from outlaw legends (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson) to cultural icons (Dylan, Stevie Wonder) to regional favorites (Hank Sr., Bill Monroe). There is something for everyone here, as Stuart and his band deliver authentic Southern sounds from the mountains to the Gulf Coast.

The six-piece band consists of a wide variety of instruments for a fun and varied show - there is bass, drums, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo, plus Stuart plays guitars, accordion, harmonicas, and trumpet, and more. The Stuart McNair Band delivers a wide variety of music and a lot of fun.

Stuart's Personal Bio:

Stuart McNair has been playing music all his life. Raised in the musical traditions of the Gulf Coast, Stuart's musical background is a gumbo of cultures and influences. Today his music incorporates each of the styles of the South. Country, Bluegrass, and Louisiana Zydeco, are Stuart's specialties, but he plays is share of blues and rock and roll as well.

Stuart has been writing songs for years. His 2004 Release, "Building a Fire", introduced him to AAA and NPR Radio and overseas markets.

His second release, "Growing a Garden", is a solo acoustic collection dealing with themes of sustainable living and harmony with the natural world.

Stuart third release, "Climbing a Mountain", is a full band romp through 14 upbeat songs.

Stuart is a multi-instrumentalist, and switches between instruments as he switches between Americana and Roots styles.

Stuart's influences include:

Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young, the Band, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zant, John Hartford, John Prine, Steve Earle, Peter Rowan, Donna the Buffalo, Jim Lauderdale, Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Guy Clark, Loretta Lynn, Tom Waits.