Let’s get Stoned!
This is another review that’s been waiting a bit too long, so apologies are due to Brian Stone! Brian sent me a sneaky peek of his EP before it was released, and I was poised to write something but he warned me off, unsure how long he’d wait before releasing. Then he released it pretty much straight after when we went to see The Leylines in Burton, and well, gigs and other things pushed it unforgiveably down my list of things-to-blog. But I got there in the end!
My first inkling of Brian Stone the performer was after he and Karen kindly let me crash at theirs after Ferocious Dog played in Cambridge last year – on getting back in the evening he casually picked up his guitar and apologetically blasted his way through some Ferocious Dog, Levellers, Gaz Brookfield and Leatherat songs. Self-depreciating all the way, he played down his own abilities with voice and guitar although clearly seeds were already growing in his mind!
Brian subsequently became a fixture at festival camp fires throughout the summer whilst writing songs and eventually graduating to stages – to which he’s ascended to like a duck takes to water, so an EP was an exciting prospect, a natural progression from the t-shirts (top tip: when in Tenerife, don’t wear a t-shirt that says ‘Brian Brian Brian, Let’s Get Stoned’ on it – you become an absolute magnet for ‘lucky lucky’ drug dealers!). The artwork design is great, a pretty good representation of Brian as a landlocked musical pirate!
Barrow Downs kicks it all off – a beautiful and evocative homage to where he grew up. On my first listen it had the feel of a Simon Friend Levellers song, speaking of a love of nature, happy memories – I must admit, I googled like mad for the lyrics convinced it must be a cover of a traditional folk song. I was wrong, it’s his own work and it’s lovely. Singing with a huskier more gravelly voice than I’d been accustomed to before – it works well though, and undoubtedly contributes to comparisons with Simon Friend.
Next up is Life Begins @ 50 – I think this was the first self-penned song of Brian’s I heard – a celebration of passing a landmark age, like Mark in his review, it did put me in the mind of Gaz Brookfield, possibly because it’s a fast paced autobiographical song that has those folk who’ve hit that age smiling wryly, or those of us looking ahead to it perhaps feeling a little bit relieved that it’s not a signal for the end times! A fun song, and reassuring that there’s always room for a bit of growing old disgracefully!
Quiet Anarchist is a charming tribute to Brian’s father – it’s one I’ve seen him almost reluctantly perform live at Something To Smile About, hopefully the success of that will encourage further airings for it at gigs. Covering a range of rebellion from illicit smoking or simply subtly not conforming without resorting to outright rebellious behaviour. It’s a really catchy number that will have your foot tapping at the very least – and who can’t help but feel a bond with somebody into anarchy, but in a quiet way?
A pace change for You’re Just Like Me is very timely given the political climate at the moment (he says, writing on the eve of the EU Referendum) charting the optimism and hope present at the start of so many fundamentally essential careers like teachers and doctors being devalued, eroded and destroyed by ‘the men of hate.’ A really strong message, and one that should be taken heed of – I’ve known a few teachers now driven from a vocation they love by awful governance – whilst we can clearly see the NHS is being set up for a fall to ease the path to accelerated privatisation. Depressing times!
So luckily we get to finish off with what has probably become Brian’s signature tune – Why Is All The Rum Gone documents the campfire experiences from which his now more established performing career was sprung. Indeed, I was even present at one part where an over-zealous security staff member at Farmer Phil’s came to ask Brian to stop playing his (less audible than talking volume) guitar in the campsite. It’s a brilliantly catchy singalong song that is often accompanied by a bottle of rum being handed to the crowd.
A wonderful collection of five songs – from the poignant and poetic to the fun and irreverent there’s songs for all moods and paces in here. Whilst I’ve pointed out influences I might have divined from listening to them, they’re all unmistakably Brian as he develops and forges his own style of writing and performing – I’m looking forward to seeing what future songwriting yields over the coming months – it’s bound to be ace!