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The Strollers – Stationary Sun

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The one-two punch salvo of “Into the Brand New Day” and “Only a Penny” showcase New York’s The Stollers as a band who are masters of a craft from days gone by. Their sound is filled with traditional instrumentation that isn’t even cool in the modern folk world, plus their influences dredge deeper waters including blues, country, rock n’ roll and beyond. Acoustic guitars trot out melodies that are soon besieged by piano jigs that are blown into the stratosphere by Sly Scott’s exclamatory tenor sax while keys add texture, harmony guitars veil the atmosphere in sheer melody and Brad n’ Lesley Stoller croon like old time wayfarers singing their songs as they travel the country side. Slide guitar and full blown electric riffs/leads also give the tunes a lot of legs to run far with.

After the crunchy, crispy opening duo “Open your eyes” submerges into a tender ballad complete with bells and flutes as the vocals take on an enrapturing croon where even line becomes a mantra. Acoustic guitars warmly wrap around the feminine gospel backing vocals as percussion only accents the proceedings without pounding its way to the forefront. Stationary Sun quickly proves itself an album of opposites with “Loredana” replacing the country imagery with city sights where cigarette smoke taints nightclubs as the band onstage dive bombs through careening fills on the snare, vibrant hues of bass guitar and guitars that aren’t afraid to rock both acoustically and electrically. The vocals are bathed in spotlights as they embrace power while not forsaking melody at the expense of audible expulsion. Flute, keys and piano engage the jazz component fully but the band isn’t afraid to up and rock with rat-a-tat drum rushes, scalding electric guitars and jarring tempo shifts.

“You Can Come Home (with me)” is a groovy slice of Delta blues and whiskey-soaked country where the hymnal organs brush shoulders with slide guitars and mellow, melodic piano melodies. The guitar work ventures into some Spanish motifs and Flamenco scales that Robby Krieger would have used, although these elements are directly distilled into a Mason Dixon format where southern guitar licks and hospitable grooves go hand in hand with the pleasant lead vocal melodies. Of all the tracks included “Culture War” is a complete 180 as it’s more of an explosion than a straightforward song. The vocals are like an air-raid siren hooked up to a megaphone, almost in the traditional of the late great Scott Weiland as Stoller narrates the impending madness of the world of a pulverizing backbeat, blown amplifier guitars, punching bag drums, pianos gone mad and wailing saxophones. It’s kind of a shame that there’s not another song like it because it REALLY stands out from The Stollers traditional material. It renders the immediately following ballad “Between the Sun and the Moon” a mite uneventful by comparison, but listen long enough and you’ll find a tune loaded with gorgeous vocal melodies embedded in a framework of hypnotizing acoustic guitars and amorous, Americana piano.

The shuffling, blues-stomp of “Food in the Morning Blues” has an off-time percussive thumb going down with vocals that are somewhat rough around the edges and a very loose structure. It manages to find its groove with some slick saxophone lines, driving acoustic guitars and a bass line that pumps and pulsates its way to the forefront of the material. The song sets the stage for the full-blown rocker “Without your Love,” an incendiary hard-rock jam where buzzy, fuzzy guitar riffs explode in pyrotechnic blasts atop of a band working every strength in their arsenal especially the jazzy ivory tinkling and full-throttle saxophone blitz. All throughout the drums lay down a battering presence as the bass goes in deep for the 3-pointer. “Song for Ann” is a pristine ballad; one of the album’s best with Stoller singing a heartfelt tune of love while acoustic guitars and piano carry the weight of his words. There’s a country n’ blues influence found in “The Two Julians” where the musical vibe stalks the Streets of Laredo looking to gun down the last outlaw in town. The instrumental “Water Wheel” is completely different than anything else on the record, thanks to its ambience; created solely by keys, piano and solemn acoustic guitar that all combine together to tell a story without words.

The Stollers have put out an album that really takes its audience on a journey from the first track to the last on Stationary Sun. They have a commanding grasp about every good style of rock and atmospheric music that ever came down the pike in the last 50 or 60 years. They update the ideals with a modern production job, but also don’t over-compress the sounds or take away the grit of the performances. These guys have come to play and play hard they do. Expect to hear a lot more from The Stoller Brothers as time goes on!

9 out of 10 stars.

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKK6rGyjRSQ

Jeremy Skiles