'Ole Betsy' by Stone BearReview
It keeps you on your toes does this reviewing business… one moment you have the luxury of possessing an album such as Ellie Gowers' ‘Dwelling by the Weir' for several months before it can be reviewed, allowing plenty of time to get to know it, then within a day, both Chasing Deer with "Standby" and now Stone Bear with 'Ole Betsy' spring surprises on you & you have to act fast.
'Ole Betsy' is described as a single, though with three tracks might also be an EP. The follow up to "Bay Tree" (and maybe a nod back to the "Ole Cherry Tree" single?), it breaks further new ground for the band as it's a collection of instrumentals….
The three tracks are "Thunder Moon", "Sleep" and "River Run" (so with no lyrics nor title track, where the title of the record comes from is interesting, but going by the artwork, might just be the name of a guitar) and are so guitar dominated (with several overdubbed) that I honestly could not hear anything else on there: I can only assume it's just David John & that Jeff Dennis is sitting this one out.
It's the right decision to limit the arrangements though. This band have deliberately moved on from their raw Howlin' Wolf influenced earlier days when they were loud, powerful & evocative of the unvarnished early days of the blues, crying out in anguish to something more acoustic & pastoral, with the power and emotion expressed differently. Too many instruments and you'd lose that: equally why write words when your picking can tell the story perfectly adequately on its own?
This captures that side of them: it's more Nick Drake than Son House, though the blues are still in the musical structures & techniques (I'm pretty certain I heard slide guitar mixed in there on occasion).
You'll like it if you like Stone Bear as it's just as authentic in its own way & instead of channelling the urban experience, instead inclines more to the rural: those households where people had guitars & played for family & friends songs & tunes rooted in their communities, but without necessarily having electricity, no amplification was available.