case you haven't noticed, there is a folk/psych renaissance
going on. If you're under fifty you more than likely would not
notice, for its roots were planted long before your existence,
in the folk/pop movement of the late sixties and early
seventies, by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel,
among others. I use S&G because
unless you study music history you would not recognize any of
the other names dipping toes in the genre--- The
Dirty Shames or The
Arbors or any of the
others who dallied with the spacey side but had hits with their
more pop offerings. Looking back, I believe that few artists
really wanted to delve into the softer, inner places that music
sometimes takes you, that it was more than likely producers who
pushed artists in that direction. For S&G,
though, it was a musical journey and one which served them and
their fans well, from Parsley to beyond Sage, if you will.
Well, for the
young, welcome back to times you have never experienced.
Artists are coming out of the woodwork, dissecting folk and
psych alike, though they would probably not call it such. You
see, folk has evolved into acoustic music on the whole and
psych has stepped from form to a state of mind and for all of
the offerings back in the day, mind was a goal and not a
starting point. It revolved around drugs more than real
emotion. It was more Hollywood than reality. And I do not
include Simon & Garfunkel as
such an example. Indeed, Paul Simon wrote
from the heart and both Simon and Garfunkel sang from the soul.
They were an exception. One of only a few.
So what does
to do with this? Sage Run,
like Winterpillsand Pepa,
has reached beyond and within to revive a form of music which
was never really a form--- not an accepted form--- and is
creating a genre. Sage
is not shoegaze nor is it space music nor is it folk nor any of
the other categories people seem to accept these days. You
might get away with slotting it amongst any of those, I
suppose, but then you would be missing the point. Sage
Run, like Winterpills
have found a niche which lives within itself. It is what they
used to bill as “Food For the Mind” in the ads for
Rolling Stone and
Village Voice and
a plethora of other newspapers and 'zines which included music
as part of their core, only this time it steps beyond the mind
and beyond Madison Avenue (a term you may know from Mad
Men, kiddies) and into
the psyche. Not psychedelic, mind you, but then again, that
depends on the listener.
Allow me to
preface what follows by stating that Sage Run is
pure and simple. Don't let that throw you. There is an
orchestra in his head and music in his soul. And the guy can
seems to be the center of the music, but Stace-James uses piano
as well and it works very well for him. Floating piano.
Ethereal piano. Single-stroke notes which make all the
difference, especially when they are played in dirge-like
succession. He begins with piano in the electronic collage
which opens the album but quickly switches to picked acoustic
guitar on Coffee
a song very Winterpills-like
in structure (if you have not checked Winterpillsout,
I heartily suggest you do so, right after you check out Sage
The music turns orchestral on Hey
synthesizers emphasizing the beautiful melody and outstanding
harmonies and here we go. He works his way effortlessly through
track after track of musical, uh, would magnificence be too
much? No, I think that pretty much says it. It carries you
along, beginning to end, and lays you down quietly at the end
with a reprise track straight out of Hollywood, segments of
each song spliced together one after another without apology.
In fact, no apology is necessary. An album like this needs a
reprise. It deserves it.
Stace-James has been to seminary, you know. I
didn't the first few times I listened, afraid that the bio
would influence what I heard. It is a test I give myself once
in awhile--- a how-smart-are-you test, only musically. I heard
the church seep through on Angels Waiting and
choir singing to On High, a nod to that which is beyond our
comprehension. Neither is necessarily a religious song, not
religion in the normal sense, but each definitely has a
spirituality. Stace-James' music is maybe not as secular as,
say, Brian Cullman
his No God
is a hymn to the Majestic (read
my take on Cullman's excellent “All Fires the Fire”
but along the same lines. Beautiful songs, all. Intense.
throws in a couple of piano tracks--- not solo in that they are
It is understandable, considering that his first effort was
piano and a fine album unto itself. (Piano
2010). The piano tracks here serve as beautiful bridges from
song to song but stand on their own very well. Now that I think
about it, one thing that really sets this album apart is the
use of the piano, the single notes, the beauty and simplicity.
Thanks to that piano and unlike some albums, you don't have to
fight your way through Sage Run.
It carries you.
know what? I just realized that I've listened to this album a
lot lately and have yet to listen to the lyrics. It is not that
they are unimportant or undiscernible, it's just that I am not
ready yet. I have listened because of the music and always find
that if the music is good, the lyrics will find their way in on
their own time. And I'm a patient guy. If nothing else, it
gives me a reason to listen many times more, something to which
I look forward. I might even go back and check out Stace-James'
bit more closely.I
got a bit burned out on piano during the Windham Hill craze
back in the eighties, but I have a feeling that Stace-James'
version will be a bit more palatable. If this album is an
have to excuse me. Sending
cycled on to the player and I am fast falling in love with the
song. It is the choir. Or maybe the orchestration and
arrangement. Or maybe it's just Sage
It is just beautiful.