Chris Stamey has an impressive background. A key member of power pop outfits Sneakers and The dB’s, producer at Modern Recording, the studio he’s operated for the past two decades, and collaborator with the likes of Michael Stipe, Yo La Tengo, Ryan Adams, Matthew Sweet, Marshall Crenshaw, Alejandro Escovedo, Flat Duo Jets, Le Tigre, Tift Merritt, Freedy Johnston, and Whiskeytown.
After moving to New York in the early ’80s, Stamey launched his own pioneering indie label, Car Records, and played bass in Alex Chilton’s band, before making a pair of now-classic albums, 1981’s Stands for deciBels and 1982’s Repercussion, with The dB’s. The North Carolina-bred singer-songwriter-guitarist has built an international, influential following and established him as an alternative pop godfather figure.
I saw Stamey support Ken Stringfellow in January 2014 at the Caravan Club in Melbourne, Australia. The two were a part of the Big Star 3rd album tribute that was a part of the Sydney Festival. Stringfellow’s performance was ponderous and ramshackle, while Stamey was right on the money.
Now along comes Euphoria (Yep Roc Records), I believe his 11th solo outing, which follows on from 2013’s Lovesick Blues and the long-awaited dB’s reunion album Falling off the Sky (2012).
Euphoria is a strong addition to his existing catalogue. The ten songs and three bonus tracks are classy and memorable. Great hooks, infectious choruses, profound texture, and production values abound. There’s a laudatory supporting cast that includes Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Pat Sansone (Wilco), Django Haskins (Old Ceremony), and long-time cohort Mitch Easter.
High points include the pressing opener “Universe-sized Arms”, a previously unreleased Ryan Adams composition that Adams suggested Stamey record. There’s also the indelibly infectious “Where Does the Time Go?”, the heartfelt “You Are Beautiful”, the punchy “When the Fever Breaks”, and “Rocketship”, which references legendary punk band the MC5, whose 1971 visit to Stamey’s hometown of Winston-Salem was a seminal event.
“I found these songs inside the same dilapidated old Silvertone lipstick guitar that I’d written my first records on,” Stamey asserts. “Maybe that’s why it sounds a bit like those records in some ways.”
To that end, and in addition to the aforementioned guest spots, Stamey assembled some long-time friends from the fertile musical community of Chapel Hill, NC – Tony Stiglitz, F.J. Ventre, Wes Lachot, Matt McMichaels, and producer Jeff Crawford. “We started rehearsing in a tiny old shack out in the woods, and I wrote some new songs so we’d have something to play together,” Stamey recalls. “Then we ran down the road to Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium studio to cut tracks together as a band, with Mitch on guitar as well.”
As good as his pedigree and CV is, Euphoria proves that Chris Stamey continues to be an important power pop voice.
1. Universe-sized Arms
2. Where Does the Time Go?
4. Make Up Your Mind
6. Awake in the World
7. Dear Valentine
8. When the Fever Breaks
9. You Are Beautiful
11. Draggin’ The Line
12. Euphoria Cont’d
13. Where Does the time Go (Groovy Radio Mix)