Thursday 5 December 2019

StoneWire - Life as We Know It (2019)

Country: UK
Style: Blues Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Nov 2019
Sites: Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

Here's another name to watch from the burgeoning and increasingly varied New Wave of Classic Rock movement. StoneWire are a hard rock band with more than just one foot in the blues and at least a few toes in southern rock. Oh, and by southern rock, I don't mean the south of England, whence they hail, but a more American deepsouth. Think halfway between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Aerosmith, like a Bad Company who grew up in Jacksonville, but with a strong lead vocal from Sky Hunter, who clearly boasts a serious set of pipes.

While nobody lets the side down, it's Hunter's voice that really leads this band. What's particularly impressive to me is that she generously avoids the urge to show off and turn this into a Sky Hunter showcase. She has a raucous whiskey drenched voice in the vein of Janis Joplin or Maggie Bell but she's more like the latter in that she's clearly a singer in a rock 'n' roll band rather than the lady in the spotlight, even when she really gets going, like towards the end of House Rules.

I don't know how the songwriting chores are divvied up, but she seems to be rather grounded in the genres that StoneWire play in, to the degree that she hosts a Whiskey Hour on Hard Rock Hell Radio that runs the gamut from blues rock to outlaw country via "anything that grooves". I recognise a number of bands on her playlists, from Clutch to the Quaker City Night Hawks, though I don't recognise anywhere near enough so I should download some of the shows from Mixcloud and get me some education.

The songs are consistently good here, though they tend towards the lyrically generic. Has every blues rock band ever founded written songs called One for the Road and Kick Up Some Dust? The latter sounds particularly familiar; is it a cover I don't recognise? I'm not sure anything really stands out over anything else but that doesn't mean that this is mediocre. StoneWire merely start out strong with the catchy Monkey Talk and stay at that level for nine more songs, before they virtually pack up their kit and move on to the next pair of speakers on the road to do it all over again.

Think of it this way. You may not wake up tomorrow morning with any of these songs replaying on your mind but you'll enjoy the whole album and you'll be telling friends on Facebook that in ten years time. "Back in my day, we had real bands who really rocked, you know, like StoneWire." And you'll pop this album back on and you'll enjoy the whole thing all over again.

They're a five piece band with Steve Briggs and Rob Glasner reliable at the back end. We don't really focus on what they're doing because they don't do anything flash, but there are points on relistens where they start to stand out for a moment. That's a good bassline on FTM underneath the slide guitar and another dances along wonderfully on House Rules. It's rather prominent on the stalking All That Matters too and it gets a cheeky response moment on A Step Too Far.

There are two guitarists, Gaz Annable and Duncan Greenway, and I don't know who's responsible for what but, like Hunter, they just keep on delivering on track after track, stealing our attention here and there with a riff or solo but never trying to steal the show. There's a lot of slide work on offer and it adds an agreeable vibe whether it's hard and soft. These guys don't play at full intensity level all the time; some of the best grooves are on slower parts of songs like Hero's Journey, whether it's the intro or the solo.

Ultimately, though, I have a feeling that, like most blues rock bands, this one are going to truly show what they can do on the stage. It's possible for that blistering live sound to transfer to a studio album—just check out No Compromise by the Mick Clarke Band—but it's hard to do and this doesn't feel like the band are playing live on my desk. They're behaving a little in the studio and are reserving the real blistering for when we buy tickets to see them. I'd like to do that. Life as we know it is good.

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