Larry Stone – Thistles & Salt
We have to wade through so much nonsense on the radio to get a chance to hear the occasional good tune, but sometimes a recording comes along that’s all meat and no potatoes.
That’s exactly how I felt listening for the first time to Larry Stone’s 2011 offering, “Thistles & Salt.” Primarily recorded at Gold Tooth Studio in Fort Worth, Texas and released on Cool Groove Records. this CD is graced with delicious backing musical talent. Jim and Susan Colegrove stand out among the crowd, on guitars and harmony vocals, respectively.
Following on the heels of his previous offering, “Dreams Die Hard,” Stone has given us a genuine Americana album, and he’s hit a home run with this one, touched all the bases and there’s nothing left but to come out for a curtain call. Stone’s musical style can’t really be pigeonholed, (although he has developed a distinctive signature sound) as it covers the blues, folk, straight-out country, and down home gospel, all with a rock ‘n’ roll feel. As a guitar player, Stone is a master of the Telecaster. His songwriting sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns, but the slightly ragged rambles paint delightfully evocative images of a country life that doesn’t move at the modern breakneck pace. The lyrics are heartfelt, honest, and beckoning. Larry Stone is no crooner, but his strained and worn whiskey tenor perfectly complements the rough hewn feel of the songs.
The opening track, “It Ain’t Always Roses,” is what Gram Parsons was looking for when he founded the Flying Burrito Brothers. A determined heartfelt country lament about the hard side of love with a rocking back beat. Stone descends into the Old West’s night life with “Aces And Eights,” a cautionary tale involving Wild Bill Hickok that warns us to “Be careful of the game that you’re playing, Don’t be caught with your back to the door.”
The third track, “Great Atomic Power,” covers an old Louvin Brothers gospel number pleading with the soul to prepare for an impending nuclear doomsday. The biblical theme continues with the very Byrdsish sounding “It Won’t Be Long,” featuring a tasty pedal steel line by David McMillan, whose work adorns the entire project and is maintained in the swamp groove “John The Baptist” (really bemoaning President Obama getting his head handed to him on a platter).
“I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out of Jail” is a bluegrass classic that David Nelson covered at a much faster tempo with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and on his own Pistol Packin’ Mama album. The rollicking “Cowgone Boggie” recounts a sad tale of losing money raising beef cows, told in a fun way, dancing in the kitchen like mrrionettes.
“Girl in Blue Denim” raises more questions than it answers.
He rocks us, tongue in cheek, with “Johnny,” followed by the gently bluesy “Out of the Woodwork;” its words conjure Robert Hunter’s lyrical style. A country-blues flavored instrumental, “Sally McGee” is pretty enough to merit repeated listening.
“Old Doug and the Salt Bag Blues” is a ballad that epitomizes Stone’s songwriting style. It tells a tale, and I won’t spoil the story for you. The CD concludes with the swinging “Salty Boogie,” leaving a good taste in the listener’s ear.
Larry Stone is a retired ski jumping instructor, an organic farmer, and member of the burgeoning Adirondack music scene. He performs with his band Stoneground Express. Catch them live when you can, but until then, you can purchase “Thistles & Salt” and “Dreams Die Hard” from Amazon.com, at Ampersound in Saranac Lake, directly from the artist’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Larry-Stone-and-the-Stoneground-Express/478713302158151,