"Lay Me Down Again" by Stone BearReview
Stone Bear, despite releasing a nine track album (‘Calm The Sea') less than a month ago have already issued the follow-up today: the new single "Lay Me Down Again".
It would seem that vocalist & guitarist David John has found a recording method which stimulates his creative process & he's definitely on a roll. I say David as this would seem to be one of those Stone Bear tracks he has recorded solo (his studio is home based after all) and to be fair, it's one of those "band" tracks on which Jeff Dennis' drums would not have an obvious role.
As befits an esteemed roots musician, he's not just revisited the style of song he was writing when he started seventeen years ago, but he's playing the same guitar: so right back to his own personal roots.
Not that one should see this as regressive: he considers it quite the reverse and the re-exploring aspect he describes as "a full circle type thing".
As far as his own writing goes, this quiet, reflective piece fits in very well with not only tracks evoking similar moods which he's put out over the past few years, but also to themes he returns to again & again, whatever the tempo & volume of the particular song: nature, David's relation to nature, love, seeking refuge, his quest for tranquillity and sense of belonging somewhere.
I suppose if you searched for the blues, you'd find some version in there somewhere, but the mood is overwhelmingly pastoral and the folk community may well claim it for their own, though amongst the open strings ringing as he picks his way delicately through the accompaniment on his old guitar, there are enough little blues slides to keep one foot at least in his home genre.
It's curious, but when I first started reviewing Stone Bear, their major selling point was their authenticity of their playing of pre-war blues: not least the electric, urban variety. All these years later the evolution is remarkable: if one had to dub them the heirs or successors to any musical tradition, I'd go for Nick Drake. It's proving quite a journey.
You may also have noted cover artwork by Richard Greenfield on recent Stone Bear releases: he is David's uncle and as David selected this cover from his sketchbook as he felt that it "fits the music perfectly", it seems appropriate to draw your attention to it too.