Joe Stamm Band “The Good & The Crooked (& The High & The Horny)” (Independent, 2020)

When an album kicks in, as the title song of ‘The Good & The Crooked (& The High & The Horny)’ does, with a brittle guitar riff and a voice that is quintessentially “country”, expectations start to rise. And when a Carl Perkins style solo chases the chorus to the song’s conclusion 3 minutes later, the feeling is that you are in for a treat. Any song that includes the shout “Yippee Eye Kai Ai” must score highly. The video’s good as well. Sadly, nothing on the rest of the album lives up to these expectations.

There are some good moments, particularly in Stamm’s clever writing. ‘Blame it on the Dog’ with its clever twist at the end is fun. “Blame it on the dog, blame it on the dog. He’s sittin’ there lookin’ innocent. But I swear it was the dog”. ‘Lower when I’m Sober’ is more serious but the writing is sharp and the point about the perils of drink well made.

Too much of the rest of the album is fairly pedestrian. ‘Good Times’ and ‘Comin’ Home Again’ are typical of the rather bland sound of much of the album. Stamm describes his music as “black dirt country”, and “countrified roots rock”. The impression that someone whispered “mainstream country radio” in his ear when some of this was being recorded is strong however. Which brings us to the album’s low point ‘Pearls to Pigs’ where he namechecks country stars Luke Bryan and Kane Brown, complaining about his own lack of airplay and recognition compared to their “pop country sh**”. He is apparently tired of “throwing all my pearls to pigs”. That will be his audience then. Despite turning the line back on himself at the end of the song, the irony is rather forced and at least to British ears rings very hollow.

Closing song ‘Bottle You Up’ points to where the album could have gone. Seemingly tacked on as an afterthought, it doesn’t try as hard to be rollicking as too many of the other songs do. Stamm sings better and the more relaxed playing allows the quality of the writing to stand for itself. He wants to “poor myself a big ole glass of me and you” to revive his relationship.

A couple of years ago my colleague Jonathan Aird featured Stamm’s single ‘Dandelion Woman’, and rightly praised the ”murder ballad with powering guitar riffs”. The quality control seems to have slipped badly since then, which is a shame as there is the makings of a fine record buried here.

A couple of pearls in amongst some nondescript country rock
5/10

Author: Tim Martin

I spend some of my time in Clevedon (Somerset) and some in Crianlarich (Scotland), but most of it on the road in between listening to Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty and Over The Rhine, or anything else that makes the miles go by quicker.

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