Stone Cold Sober is an album that makes you smile with warmth and pleasure, melodic country infused blues where the lyrics tell a tale and the melodic interweaving of fiddle, harp and percussion join into the party feel. The album is full of wit and perspicacity as the trio that is the base of John Cee; Mike Baker & Howard Birchmore are joined by guest performers and the rhythm section that was so powerful on his last album Bus Depot Blues. The eleven self-pen tracks are full of originality and refuse to be cornered into a blues cul-de-sac as he weaves in influences from the Southern States roots scene the music is as fresh and clean as clothes blowing on a washing line under a deep blue sky. John Cee’s version of Blind Blake’s Lead Hearted Blues suits the album as rag-time style guitar was the signature style of Blind Blake. The humour throughout the album works as it is steeped in the real world the truth that shapes all our lives. the tone and shaping of the album has a feel of The Great Depression and dust bowl of the 1930’s but not mimicking the American experience this is British blues inspired by a period of history and reflecting the experience in the here and now.
Opening with I Don’t Want You Anymore, there is a hint of jazz and the harmonica playing from Howard Birchmore is sublime with the feet tapping and the smile is present you feel that you definitely want more of John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon. Closing with This Rag Of Mine you are left with a party feel with Simon Mayor’s fiddling driving this rag tune along and singing “you need a little more action”; the answer is just play the album again you know you want to. There are many gems in between the opening and closing track The Story stands out with its narrative style, strong lyrics and a melody that flows with a harmonious mix of percussion and violin pulling you so you want to know all about the man the tale is shaped around, full of a downward spiral of gambling and drinking and a woman who wants him to change his way is a classic! Another track that shines is the harp intro and slower tempo of Worse Off Than You a song that has that element of hope again gambling a loss is interwoven into the narrative; “don’t sit there moaning when there is something you can do always someone worse off than you..” the track ends with a curl of the harp and what a great way of looking at life in general
The resonator guitar darkens the tone and tempo on Poverty Blues and this is a track that makes you sit up and listen as John Cee plays guitar and sings ‘did you hear my news’ a cry from the heart; as the reality of homelessness and how you are ignored and shunned a powerful song the double bass gives a backdrop shaping the music to fit the emotion behind every word sung.
The feeling of joie de vivre created throughout Stone Cold Sober does not mean simplistic and chorus heavy lyrics it is the exact opposite every emotion you would expect blues music to explore lost love, hurt, poverty, and so much more in the dozen uplifting, inspiring tracks. There is a change in tempo and influence throughout Stone Cold Sober making every track exciting whether listening for the first time or on the ‘will be oft repeated’ returns to listen to an album full of blue sparkling gems. If you love blues with feeling driven by the song and melodies that underpin the words but never dismal then Stone Cold Sober is the album for you.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD EIGHT doodle paws out of TEN ….
John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon ~ Stone Cold Sober – Cast Iron Recordings
Track Listing CD
1. Don’t Want You Anymore
2. Don’t Worry None ‘Bout Me
4. Rum Ol’ Do
5. So Long
6. Lead Hearted Blues
7. Stone Cold Sober
8. Poverty Blues
9. Right Back at the Start
10. Worse Off Than You
11. Dream The Blues
12. This Rag Of Mine