Chris Stamey, Travels In The South

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

An underground semi-legend in pop circles since his work with the dBs and Alex Chilton a quarter-century ago, Chris Stamey has blossomed into a first-rate producer of roots-based music in his native North Carolina in recent years, helming impressive albums by Thad Cockrell, Caitlin Cary and Chatham County Line while helping to guide the careers of Ryan Adams and Tift Merritt. On Travels in the South, his first solo album in more than a decade, Stamey fuses his past and present personas in an album that suggests a resplendent re-divining of his region's musical identity — Southern Culture on the Rise, perhaps?

Stamey covers a wide range of moods and approaches: pure power-pop ("Shades Of Green"), jazzy intellectual overtones ("Kierkegaard"), dreamy soundscapes ("Insomnia"), playful adventurousness ("Ride"), revisionist reverie ("In Spanish Harlem") and simple, heartfelt balladry ("There's a Love"). Taken as a whole, Travels in the South is a remarkable encapsulation of Stamey's arching ambitions and inclinations; it's the kind of mid-career milestone to which many accomplished musicians aspire, but few achieve so masterfully.