Lee’s Listening Stack: James Lee Stanley — ‘Backstage at the Resurrection’ and ‘All Wood and Doors’
James Lee Stanley
Backstage at the Resurrection
James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt
All Wood and Doors
Despite the fact he’s already considered one of the standard bearers of today’s singer/songwriter and neo-folk movements, James Lee Stanley somehow manages to outdo himself every time out. His latest effort, Backstage at the Resurrection, provides all the proof needed. A breezy collection of festive melodies with a decided tropical feel, its songs convey the unassuming but obvious confidence of a man well versed in his craft. That’s clearly evident even at the outset, given the celebratory designs of opening tracks “Backhand Nab” and “I Can’t Cry Anymore,” and in spite of titles that might suggest otherwise. Surreptitious at times – “Coming Out of Hiding” and “Feather River Nocturne” could be offered in evidence – Stanley’s sound is engaging and accessible, given rich harmonies that recall Crosby Stills and Nash or America at their sweetest and most sincere. Still, if there’s any doubt as to any early allegiance, “Going Back to Memphis,” with its riveting grit and solid groove makes it clear he’s got a poet’s eloquence and a reverential heart.
Also add imagination to Stanley’s list of attributes. The second in what’s now become a highly anticipated series that touts reinvention of certain standards, All Wood and Doors picks up on the buzz generated by last year’s All Wood and Stones, in which Stanley found himself interpreting classic Rolling Stones songs with acoustic guitar and a back porch sensibility. As the title implies, the current project applies that treatment to the music of the Doors, doing so in a way that’s equally sympathetic but no less conspicuous in its drastic redesign. Purists might balk at some of the treatments – indeed, few of the songs bear anything other than a perfunctory resemblance to the original template – but having gained the blessings — and in fact, the participation — of former Doors Robbie Krieger and John Densmore, he easily deflects all charges of heresy. Fellow folkie Cliff Eberhardt helps at the helm, his gruff vocals adding the necessary insurgence in lieu of Jim Morrison’s howl and croon, while a host of other familiar names – Peter Tork, John Batdorf, Paul Barrere, Timothy B. Schmit, among them – add their credence to the project as well. Although “Light My Fire” in particular has been opened up to all sorts of possibilities over the years, the takes on “Break on Through,” Soul Kitchen” and “People Are Strange” might put the purists off, but even they won’t be able to deny the affection and attention Stanley and Eberhardt clearly invested in this endeavor. – Lee Zimmerman
Lee Zimmerman is a contributor to a variety of publications, including Blurt, M Music & Musicians, New Times, Goldmine and Amplifier