Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey: Here and Now

peterholsapplechrisstamey_hereandnowEx-dB’s show off the magic of their pairing

Holsapple and Stamey’s music on the first two dB’s albums (Stands for Decibels and Repercussions – available as a two-fer) was so deeply insinuating as to nearly obsolete everything else that would follow. It’s not that their post-dB’s work was uninteresting or without merit, it just never set its hooks as deeply in the soul. Stamey’s string of solo albums held several high points, including his sole major-label release, 1987’s It’s Alright, and his 2004 return, Travels in the South. He also helped create memorable works as a producer, recording Americana acts that include Whiskeytown, Alejandro Escovedo, and Caitlin Cary. But none of this, including the dB’s post-Stamey releases (1984’s Like This, 1987’s The Sound of Music and 1994’s Paris Avenue), nor the duo’s recently reissued post-dB’s team-up, Mavericks, ever fully captured the magic of the first two albums.

Others have had to compete with their mercurial early success. But unlike Stamey’s one-time boss, Alex Chilton, Stamey and Holsapple have retained the charm of their early days, even as the buoyancy of younger years is weighed down by the wear of age. Was their post-dB’s music really all that different, or was the difference in the listener’s matured expectation and the environment into which later releases were made? Longtime fans can’t really make an evaluation divorced from romantic attachment to the early albums, but Holsapple and Stamey’s latest can provide some clues. The thrill that runs through their layered vocal harmonies, the descending melodic hook of “Early in the Morning,” and the battery of guitar sounds provide instant reminders of what drew your ear to this pair in the first place.

Stamey’s 2004 return to solo work reminded fans of what they’d been missing, and Holsapple’s return reignites the ear’s longing for his voice and harmonies. The album’s love songs could easily be taken as expressions of friendship; the opening cover of Family’s “My Friend the Sun” reads as a mutual invitation to reconnect, and Stamey’s “Santa Monica,” ostensibly a declaration of lifelong fealty to a lover, could be read as a nostalgic memory of earlier musical connections. Holsapple’s title track celebrates the present, but it’s clear that this moment is the culmination of a long-standing association. Even Stamey’s honorarium “Song for Johnny Cash” could be interpreted as a celebration of the musical friendship closer at hand.

Writing independently, each bounces from pop confections to philosophical constructs. In the former category is Holsapple’s stream-of-consciousness spin through a routine start to the day, “Early in the Morning,” and Stamey’s bouncy “Widescreen World.” In the latter category are Holsapple’s questioning “Begin Again” and “Some of the Parts,” the latter opening with the fifty-something quandary “Mid-life, and where’s my big parade?” Stamey’s jazz influences surface on the allegorical “Broken Record,” augmented by drifting guitars and a layered vocal harmony break. Holsapple and Stamey leaven each other here as they did in their dB’s days, creating a vocal magic that neither possesses alone. Eighteen years after their last pairing, this album’s been a long time coming; but it was certainly worth the wait. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Here and Now
Peter Holsapple’s MySpace Page
Chris Stamey’s Home Page
Chris Stamey’s MySpace Page
The dB’s Home Page

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2 Responses to “Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey: Here and Now”

  1. shadow says:

    Holsapple put out ‘Here and Now’ on his solo album 12 years ago, so not quite a celebration of the reunion with Stamey, but nice write up nonethless…

  2. hyperbolium says:

    True enough. Though as it’s played on this album (upbeat and brighter), among other songs that seem to celebrate the re-partnering with Stamey, its theme of currency seems recontextualized, if only in my own imagination.

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