Thoughtful country-folk that threatens to riot at any moment.
When a singer-songwriter firmly places themselves in the country genre, I personally need them to be doing something else with it to make me sit up and listen. Straight up country doesn’t do much for me. This is where Will Stewart comes in. His brand of country-folk is very much grounded in many traditional country rhythms and textures. What makes him stand out is that he uses that as a jumping bridge to other thoughts and feelings.
Take opener ‘Southern Raphael’ as an example. It begins as a skittish acoustic folk number that feels like it is going to middle-rock you gently. By the end of the track, you are knee-deep in an electric guitar scatterbrain attack. ‘All Over Again’ would make any REM fan smile with its jangle-pop guitar and whiny country vocals. ‘Stowaway’ takes the spaghetti western and turns it into a speedy ballad of wispy moments. The closing two tracks move towards brooding night owl rock pieces. ‘Night God’ is largely instrumental and lets the electric guitar simply be. Its lack of drive and spacious delivery is refreshing. In the contrast of that, closer ‘Cruel Sky’ has more in common with The Presidents of the USA and how they write quiet rock songs than anything else. With all of that, you have just one straight-up country track in ‘River Child’. Not bad going for a country-folk musician!
Whist Will Stewart may suffer a little from the fact his opening track is so superb that the rest doesn’t quite click that dizzying height, there is still plenty here to tuck into. As the EP covers a dynamic range of rock, you are bound to click with some tracks more than others – that’s not a bad thing. I expect other tracks I enjoy less will come with time. This is country music for the thinkers among us.
Recommended track: Southern Raphael
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