By Roger Sharman
Born in Taft, Texas, Stoney Larue has long been a staple of Red Dirt fans. He’s been at the forefront of the genre with the likes of Turnpike Troubadours, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Pat Green and Randy Rogers Band
For those unfamiliar with the genre, the name Red Dirt comes from the colour of the soil in Oaklahoma and northern Texas,
For many, myself included, 2014’s ‘Aviator” album was at least career defining if not genre defining, it’s still as relevant today as it was the day it was released. It’s one of my ‘go to’ records and always will be.
Anything released by Stoney after that will always be compared to that album, not that that is the only fine record Stoney has recorded, 2011’s ‘Velvet’ and 2015’s ‘Us Time’ are both very fine albums in their own right.
This album has been a long time coming, but it has been well worth the wait, it will continue to cement Stoney’s place at the forefront of of the Red Dirt scene. It’s an album not to far removed from the ‘Aviator’ sound, ‘Us Time” was basically an album of cover versions including ‘Into the Mystic’, ‘Witchita Lineman’, and ‘Seven Spanish Angels’.
‘Onward’ kicks off with a song thats not new, its been a fan favourite for quite a while, ‘You Oughta Know Me by Now’, and what an outstanding song it is. The quality of songwriting, the musicians that have been assembled for this record and Stoney’s soulful southern voice are clearly demonstrated here.
‘Hill Country Boogaloo’ was written in tribute to the area that he and co-writer, Gary Nicholson love so much. The first time I heard the intro to this I thought I was listening to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstitious’. This soon turns into what I call Funktry, it’s a southern rocking, stomper that will have you jumping around the room.
‘Falling and Flying’ is an upbeat Texas Red Dirt rocker. Worthy of notable mentions in this song are the accordion, fiddle and pedal steel. Stoney’s vocals are as strong and silky as ever.
‘Not One Moment’ is the type of song that sees Stoney really excel for me. It’s a smooth love song, that really highlights the way he can crossover from singing either raucous beer stompers to soulful soft ballads, his tones are spot on for this track.
‘Meet in the Middle’ (feat. Tanya tucker) seesTexas legends join forces on this honky tonker. Their voices really combine and complement each other perfectly. Indeed Tanya’s vocals on this are on fire, having reviewed her recent album, ‘while I’m Living’, i can safely say that Tanya didn’t test her vocal chords on that album as much as she does here.
‘Message in a Bottle’ is a slow, drinking song, a sad country song, with some memorable keyboard combining with the pedal steel to give it that weeping effect.
‘Evil Angel’ has a funky sound with gospel harmonies supplied admirably by the female backing vocalists, over a country/Blues track. I absolutely love the piano throughout this song. It’s definitely one of the standout tracks on the record.
A further example of Larue’s versatility is ‘Drowning in the Moonlight’, which is the kind of song that you’ll want to have on your summer barbecue playlist, coming on around dusk, it’s a song that even Grandma will be asking you to turn up.
There’s no relenting to the quality on this album, ‘Worry be Gone’, carry’s on much in the same vein as ‘evil angel’ carrying many of the same elements, but adding some brass and harmonica into the mix, it has more of a ragtime feel to it.
‘ I Can’t Help You Say Goodbye’ is more of the same successful formula, another of the slower tracks, its just a well constructed and heartfelt song.
Now anyone who covers a Haggard song better be damn good at it purely and simply because so many artists cover Merle. I think is safe to say that Stoney has achieved that here. The mood of the original has been maintained, it’s a wonderful song and Mr Larue has done it absolute justice.
‘Thought You’d Want to Know’ is a song that demands that you pull your loved ones close, tell them that you love them, give them any reassurance they might require that they are the right one for you.
One of the greats of Red Dirt music, the late Brandon Jenkins joins Stoney on ‘High Times’ and a timely reminder it is that he went way too soon. The two voices work so well together it’s almost uncanny.
All being equal, Stoney Larue should be one of the biggest selling country music artists out there, he has the voice, he has the songs, he has a fine band backing him. Hopefully this release will see an increase in his following, if this article goes some way towards that then I’ll be extremely happy because musically he certainly deserves it. I can’t recommend this album or his back catalogue any more strongly than I do.