“The Stone Electric”

3 stars (out of 5)

1

OK; I’ll admit it, I’m a bit slow out of the blocks with this one even by my standards.  This album was released in 2009, but I happened to see the band a few weeks ago at a London gig and a copy was stuck into my grubby mitt so here we go.

The Stone Electric are Noni Crow and Austyn Crow (covering all the guitars and vocals between them) and drummer Rich Matlock.  It’s easy to pick out the band’s major influences and inspiration; pick any of the British blues-rocks bands of the early 70s and you won’t go far wrong.  What sets them apart from the Free/Humble Pie/Bad Company stereotype is Noni Crow’s voice, which you could compare to Janis Joplin, but the great Scottish singer Maggie Bell is probably closer to the mark.  And, in case you didn’t know, Maggie Bell sang with the band Stone the Crows in the early 70s.

The album opens with the scene-setting “Elephant” with a fat guitar riff and Noni Crow’s great rock voice.  Like everything else on the album, fast or slow, the feel is always slightly loose, leaving room for plenty of drum and guitar fills.  The pacing of the album works well, with the slower songs such as “Beggars Would Ride” and “Mercy Me” being used to break up the out and out rockers while acting as a showcase for the soulful vocals.  “Gotta Get Out” sounds really familiar; the reason for that is that it’s virtually the same intro as “Speak to Me/Breathe”, the first track on “Dark Side of the Moon”.  That’s not a criticism, just an observation.

There’s also a psychedelic element to the album.  The track “Mr Riley” has a very late 60s Small Faces feel, particularly the slight phasing on the vocal and a hint of Steve Marriott as well (before the Humble Pie years) or possibly even very early Status Quo.  The final track on the album has one of the best titles I’ve seen in a long time, “Tequila Mockingbird”.  Well, it made me smile anyway.

If you’re into the sound of the British post-Yardbirds blues-rock bands (and lots of people 20 and 30 years too young to actually remember it are), then you should give this a listen because you’ll like it.  The songs are strong, the instrumental performances are very, very good and the vocals (from Noni and Austyn Crow) make it a little bit special.

The main concern for me is how much commercial potential this sort of material has in the current market, although it’s not so far from The Black Crowes and who would have put money on them breaking through commercially 10 years ago?  All I can say is that you should have a listen for yourself and the starting point for that is http://thestoneelectric.com/home.html.  If you get a chance to see them live in the UK, or even on home ground in the US, then don’t miss out because they’re even better live.