Will Stewart’s recent release County Seat (Cornelius Chapel Records) crossed our dashboard recently and we can’t stop listening. Produced at Ol Elegante studio by Les Nuby, the songs are utterly “right now” quintessential Americana. It feels like Stewart struck an arrow straight through our hearts to the target sound we crave. With Stewart on guitars, vocals, and banjo; Ford Boswell on pedal steel and Janet Simpson on vocals, drummer Tyler McGuire and bassist Ross Parker, and Les Nuby contributing persussion and guitars, the lineup provides a hearty dose of that mournful Alabama sound
The title track “Sipsey” is about one of those places that just sounds utterly romantic and idyllic to those of us who haven’t seen it. So much good Americana music comes out of regions surrounding this Sipsey Alabama (population 427) area — east of Tupelo, north of Birmingham — that this song fits right into the Americana niche with the satisfaction of finding that missing puzzle piece. There’s a theory floating around that good music is leaving the big metropolitan areas because your average musician –hell your average person—can’t afford to live there, and the music is cropping up from down South in droves. And this album adds more evidence to that theory.
“Rosalee” is a barn dance, uplifting song: “when your world falls apart, I hope you call on me.” “Brush Arbor” is a song about coming home through the arbor to family with wide open spaces in between softly played guitars. “Heaven Knows Why” seizes at the heart of struggle and regret with “if the guitars don’t kill me, she might.” “Equality, AL” is a gently acoustic mid tempo crooner with pedal steel and Simpson’s pretty harmonies: “this dusty old room is wearing on me, there’s a feeling around here that won’t let me be. “County Seat” again skillfully uses instrumental effects to tap into any latent bottled-up sadness we may be harboring, as he’s been working for the county seat in a dead end job. “Mine is a Lonely Life” is a more traditional throwback to early country bare bones presentation.