One of the things that typified early alt-country was good ol’ guitar jangle – bands like Whiskeytown, Son Volt and Old 97’s were LOADED with it, and it’s what drew a lot of us in. Since then, Americana has taken more of a rootsy path, with more varied instrumentation. While the variety and diversity are most welcome, I feel like a lot of us are missing that rhythmic guitar sound. Alabaman Will Stewart’s latest album, Slow Life, is a guitar-based record that will drop y’all right back into that mid-90s Jangletopia.
Slow Life begins as all alt-country albums should – with a slow-burn road song. “Bad Memory” pairs a burbling organ line and excellent slide work (Stewart plays all the guitars on the record) with the need to forget – “I wanna ride/Go undercover/On outta reality.” “Nothing’s Right,” on the other hand, deals with the perils of staying home. A little slower, and complemented with backing vocals from Janet Simpson, Stewart sings of the slow crumbling of life when nothing goes right – “Got a box of wine/That tastes like sh!t/But it’ll have to do.”
Stewart looks outward on “New World Daydream,” a simmering, electric peek into a greedy world – “Money, God and pills won’t ever fix what’s in your head/You’re already dead” – capped with with a scorching, Mike Campbell-esque guitar outro. The guitar work on Slow Life is never showy – just enough to get the job done. “Just Be Sweet” features twin slide solos, and “On The Edge of Brightness” nicely pairs electric with some strummy acoustic. Album wrapper “New Highway” is a slightly different animal – melancholy and a little dreamy, featuring Daniel Raine’s work on keys as prominently as Stewart’s guitars. With two short verses followed by a hazy instrumental reverie, it’s a tranquil nighttime drive of a tune to cap off an album’s worth of daytime road rockers.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Bad Memory” – This excellent album opener makes for a perfect show starter.
Slow Life was engineered and mixed by Brad Timko and mastered by Alex McCollough. All original songs were written by WIll Stewart, with co-writing credits going to Ross Parker. Additional musicians on the album include Parker (bass), Tyler McGuire (drums), Daniel Raine (keys) and Janet Simpson (background vocals).
Go here to order Slow Life (out August 5): https://corneliuschapelrecords.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/will-stewart-slow-life
Check Stewart’s website for tour dates: https://www.willstewartmusic.com/