Jason Robert tells of The Death of Stone Stanley

According to the artist’s own description, what we have here is a new sub-genre of blues and roots music…Jason Robert defines his output as “Mudstomp”.  Well, we shall see as the aforementioned Mr. Robert has an album out, his first as a solo artist, called The Death Of Stone Stanley. A curious title as his history reveals that Jason was, up until recently, the frontman of a band called Stone Stanley…too much to be a coincidence methinks. This Californian native under the Stone Stanley moniker released a couple of albums prior to this one…the first was heavily reggae laced, the second called Mudstomp Tapes gave a better idea as to Jason’s true direction and he has developed that on the new one as he combines blues with folk, country and gospel in a fairly unique way; there’s delta blues underlying the rock aspects as he uses lap slide as well as bottleneck. Vocally, we get strong blues with an edge…a little Son House tinge with some Muddy as well as his own distinct character. Think a less raw Acari or Clatch with added baritone and more variation.

It starts off with a positive sense what could be, Someday…it is a heavily played acoustic number but with deft picking alleviating the hard hitting of the strings and the way he allows the guitar to resonate (pun intended) is sheer class, and shows how an acoustic can have real weight and tone. It has touch of Beggars Day by Nazareth in the lower melody, but from the first note this all Jason and it is a powerful and measured performance and, when the slide solo swirls round the room it becomes masterful. Soul of a Man is that Blind Willie Johnson classic and in Jason’s hands it becomes a warmer and more crystalline song with the guitar (a Gretsch resonator in open C…thank you for the detail JR, it is truly appreciated) illuminating a great song being delivered with total empathy. Next up is a lyrical dig at the state of the States and the divisiveness that runs through society; All I Need is, in essence, a simple countrified blues with a lilting verse backed with such quality touches on the picking and the occasional bottleneck run…no real solo, but still a delightful piece of playing. Mr. Bell has an electric slide playing a dark, funereal riff to put a background to this story of the villain Lester F Bell who apparently is well known for haunting California’s mining camps; although it has modern connotations in some clever lyrics as Jason sings over a simple strummed acoustic…it is the off-key electric slide that, yes, haunts and adds so much. Moonshiner is a very old Irish folk song that JR has updated with a slower, semi-spoken approach and the never overused harmonica sections give atmosphere and it draws you into its solemnity and may even have you reaching for the moonshine! It is though, an innovative interpretation and the electric guitar phrasing makes it even better.  Another extremely old track next, as JR takes on a classic gospel blues tune from the late 1800’s, You Gotta Move. Although Mississippi Fred McDowell ‘s delta blues version was obviously the benchmark, they have adapted it simply superbly. This is true blues of the highest order and the simple percussion and bass backing with the slide roaming over the top is magical. Good Vibes changes the whole feel as we get a reggae texture from the barred chords…it sits a little incongruously with the rest but the slide solo is treat…albeit too short. Sat Around opens as simple strummed acoustic and vocal…so far, so Don McClean and it doesn’t lift from that…a pleasant enough tune,, but a bit lackluster compared to the extremely high quality of the rest. Never Gonna Die puts that well and truly to rest as we are back with electric slide and a rhythm that gets you from the off. It is, I think, purposely similar to Soul Of A Man in both phrasing and message. The guitar work is majestic!  A gospel delta blues classic next, again from Blind Willie Johnson…I have over a dozen versions of John The Revelator and this is up among the best.  The simple structure of the original is intact but there is an added depth and emotion reflected in the vocal treatment and the electric solo in the middle is judged to perfection. Penultimate track, Hereafter, is slow blues with a rock edge as the picked acoustic and excellent electric is inserted with space and thoughtfulness. The album closes with the sometimes-overworked title of Woke Up This Morning. Here it works as well as ever as we revisit the picking of Someday and the conclusion to the funeral of the titular character. The playing and singing are blues gospel at its best and very Ry Cooder on this one…that is a compliment.

This is an excellent album of solid and well-played blues with only one track not hitting the sweet spot…possibly because of the august company it has to live up to. The rest though is simply superb and so, if you like your blues firmly rooted in the 20s and 30s but with a clean and modern edge, then you need this album. OK, I am still not sure that Mudstomp is descriptive or not…but who cares?

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Someday
  2. Soul of a Man: Blind Willie Johnson
  3. All I Need
  4. Mr Bell
  5. Moonshiner: Trad. Arranged by JR
  6. You Gotta Move
  7. Good Vibes
  8. Sat Around
  9. Never Gonna Die
  10. John the Revelator: Blind Willie Johnson
  11. Hereafter
  12. Woke Up This Morning

Musicians:

Jason Robert: vocals, drums, guitar

Scott Longnecker: Bass

Jim McComas: lead guitar, harmonica

Jason Robert tells of The Death of Stone Stanley

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