NOVEMBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
StoneWire return with an album of absolute truth. An album that has something to say about the now – from a band that has perfectly captured the essence of its signature sound and personality. For a band that hasn’t had the ‘in-crowd’ luck of others – and has itself been rocked by Brexit uncertainty – ‘Life As We Know It’ is a beautiful and bold statement of self-belief; a defiant gesture of a band’s ability to creatively grow whatever the odds, whatever the context, whatever the fashion.
Too often I read about who StoneWire sound like. Comparisons to 70’s Heart are common (and not without basis) and there’s the Southern thing too. In truth, what this album confirms is StoneWire sound like StoneWire. Yes, they draw on influences, as any band does, from various sources but the way Sky employs her range is her own signature and the band is also forging its own USP in the way classic influences are framed with intelligent, contemporary narrative. It’s high time StoneWire were judged for who they are, not who they sound like: The band’s agenda and momentum is its own – and is clearly forward-looking.
‘Monkey Talk’ opens the album. It’s alert, vibrant and – like a great show opener – this song opens the door to the mood, the light and the shade that’s coming. “Forget the world and enjoy the ride” – we’re on a journey for the next hour.
For me this is a song about self-belief and carrying on. Musically, it’s got the full package: Lyrical relevance, catchy chorus lines, a tight backline and a great guitar break. A great way to start any album.
Next up is ‘One For The Road,’ which I would have called as one of the early singles. A nice nod to Led Zep in the opening chords, this song really showcases Sky’s vocals and lyrical storytelling through the verses, which have a sumptuous mood and paint pictures in the mind. Very rarely, this is one of those songs where I prefer the vocal on verses to the chorus lines.
‘FTM’ and ‘All That Matters’ were the opening two singles from this fine album and have both been well received. ‘FTM’ was inspired by the issue of homelessness and it reflects on the imbalances in the world that have reached near crisis point. Whilst the album doesn’t hold back from tackling the issues of today’s world, there’s always a sense of choice, of hope, with the music. The music engages on issues, it doesn’t preach.
Together, these two singles are muscular songs, but I would draw attention here to the accompanying videos. The marriage of music, lyric and image work well and the band was fastidious in crafting the videos themselves, drawing on proper footage and visualising the images that were in their heads. This says a lot about the band – their seriousness to their art and the authenticity of the stories they want to tell.
‘House Rules’ is one of my highlights from the album. A song created, no doubt, with the dynamic of a live set in mind, this is a blues rocker that, to me, captures the joyous escapism of going to a show after a week of stress, chores and rules. Sky’s range is great on this for a song that, in mood, celebrates a sense of community and togetherness. One of the simpler songs on the album, but – as we learned from the greats – the simple songs often work the best.
And then we have the album opus – ‘Hero’s Journey.’ This is a song I premiered on my radio show a few weeks ago and it’s had weekly requests for repeat plays ever since. At 6 mins 54, it’s easy to put down as “too long for radio” but, for me, bands sometimes need to have confidence to break the 4-minute rule and just focus on great songs being as long as they need to be. This is one of those songs, or stories, that needs a more wide-screen, cinematic setting. It has a life of its own and it’s one to experience for yourself, rather than read about here or in other reviews.
‘Life As We Know It’ I liked very much. Whilst life can be tough, I take this as a really empowering song in the pace, chorus lines and expressive guitar solo. This is also a rock song that can live beyond rock media, simply because it’s a good song with relevant words and strong sentiments that most people can relate to.
‘Kick Up Some Dust’ is crowned by the clarity of vocal that is both warm and powerful.
‘Top Shelf Conversation’ and ‘A Step Too Far’ close the album as it started – with vitality, solidly and warmth – and, once again the clarity and control of the vocals counterpoint the grit and rawness of the music well. The interesting interplay between the two is what lifts this band above many in their genre peer group.
Whisky drinkin’ blues-rock with that Southern twist is not usually my thing, but with this album it’s the quality and the control that shines through. Quality outlives fashion and supersedes personal taste. I remember a few weeks ago at the party by the lake when StoneWire just broke into a 15-minute Led Zep medley that got everyone, including the non-rockers, dancing. Sometimes a band just has it and can just bring it. StoneWire do in spades on this fine album.
In today’s music scene success comes in different shapes and sizes. Some want to be ‘big’ and are driven by the snakes and ladders fame game, other acts are technical virtuosos that build reputations on their skill in playing. Some are powered by corporate muscle, some by spin and others grow organically through the careful curation of social media fan groups. There’s no right or wrong – there’s a road for everyone. What StoneWire bring to the party is total and complete authenticity. They live and breathe it and wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves. The music isn’t a job or a ticket to ride – and a gig is more than just another show. These people have their brand of music pumping through their veins and this album is both a high-point for their work to date and a celebration of the band’s commitment to the truth in who they are and what they do.
Alongside career-best releases this year from Tarot Rats, At The Sun and Gallows Circus, the new StoneWire release also serves to remind the rest of the UK that the South East Rocks – and that there is a world south of London! There is a scene growing and some of the finest rising bands south of the M25 are producing their career defining work to date. StoneWire are at the heart of this scene and with ‘Life As We Know It’ they have delivered an album that, on merit, should see them as a must-book band for 2020’s major festivals.
‘Life As We Know It’ is released on 1 November 2019.
To pre-order the new album visit: https://www.stonewire.net/
Great Music Stories – feature interview with StoneWire from StoneFree at the O2 Arena – https://greatmusicstories.com/2018/08/15/feature-interview-stonewire-at-the-o2/
Oct 26: Glasgow, Audio (Special guests of The Swamp Born Assassins)
Nov 8: Great Yarmouth, Hard Rock Hell XIII
Nov 14: London, Hope & Anchor
Dec 07: London, The Cavern