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Album Review

STONEHONEY
The Cedar Creek Sessions

Holy Desberardo, there are more? First time through The Cedar Creek Sessions, I was taken by the similarities in style of the rockin' Chris Berardo & the Desberardos, an East Coast outfit which has been working the bar circuit for a few years and gaining fans all over, including Stonehoney's home town of Austin. Sometimes I think the only thing stopping the Desberardos from breaking out is the long wait between albums and the long drives between bars and lounges. They play the kind of alt.country I dig, kind of a cross between Nashville and my favorite country rock bands of the seventies--- and, no, I'm not talking the Eagles, though these guys do have a bit of the Eagles sound in their background vocals. Yes, indeed, there is something about the old country rockers which gets my blood a-pumpin' and I can't deny that these guys have it, much like the Desberardos. They have that something that says “This ain't country, cowboy, this is country rock!” and they have it in spades.

The story behind these sessions is simple enough. The band heads into Cedar Creek Studios for three days, records 40 songs, trims them down to fourteen, releases them and become stars. I made up the stars part, but I would not be surprised if it happened. The cool thing about the whole thing is that the album was recorded live. No, it isn't a live album. It is a live-in-the-studio album, bare butt and no overdubs and when you hear it, you more than likely will be as surprised as was I. Four guys putting out this kind of quality in one take? It very seldom happens. Then again, it wasn't just the four guys. They dragged in a few friends to sit in on the sessions so the sound is a bit fuller than you might imagine, and the four somehow forgot to add a drummer, so the basic four all play actual music and not percussion instruments. Still, to pull this off in the studio is quite an accomplishment (ten to one the Eagles would never attempt it with new material, though they've played their hits so many times they don't even pay attention anymore) and, like stated earlier, they do it in spades.

They give you a bit of honky tonk, a bit of rock, a bit of almost-country in the mix, but my favorites are the straight across country rock songs which sound like they are right out of the early seventies--- songs like Dance With You Tonight, a song you want to hear when you need to lean against your lady and smell her hair--- music perfect for that smooth glide across a dance floor. The background vocals--- again, recorded live--- are pure honey. And Headlight On a Midnight Train, a slightly upbeat but smooth reminder to a loved one who takes a different path that you still care. And Little Angel, a true country rock love song with harmonic vocal accouterments.

There are plenty of the light rockin' tunes which separated the country from the country rock back in the day and they rock on a few, most notably the closer (pre-encore, for as good as these guys are, I doubt an audience would let them leave without an encore). Feel Like I'm Going To Die boogies on out, country boogie on all four cylinders in fact.

Stonehoney gives enough variety to keep the album interesting and yet has that sound which weaves it all together, no matter which direction they go. The fact that they recorded it live just makes it all that much more interesting. My take? I would love to see these guys live, if only for those three and four part harmonies. It would allow me to revisit the glory days of bands like Cowboy, Heartsfield and Pure Prairie League--- the days when back to the land was a way of life and a way of music. This may be more back to the roots, but it's good enough. I can live with this just fine.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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