Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Record Review - Stoney Joe

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, August 5

Stoney Joe
Fuel For The Fire
Head Records

Stoney Joe’s third long-player is an interesting beast. Essentially a collection of dark night country (banjo, double bass, mandolin, various acoustic guitars), the band have continued with their penchant for sparse electronica, adding to this time honoured genre a modern bent.

This is my first encounter with the West Australian quartet and so initially, the addition of “a vintage 1980s synthesizer”, and to a lesser extent the melodica, seemed alien and out of place. After repeated listens however, the quiet drones and extremely minimal beats they create add a rather beguiling extra layer to the group’s four-part harmonies, the plunking of the banjo, the sharp shimmer of the mando. It’s most evident on tracks like No More Roving, Broken String Theory and instrumental opener Green Gums. The fact it’s not overdone is the reason it doesn’t become intrusive.

Still, to my mind, Stoney Joe are at their best when stepping back in time. The harmonies overlaying acoustic guitar on Holy Waters are fantastic, the banjo-driven Use Your Mind and Hammerfall are pure hoedown, all holler and hoo-ee. Rising Water is a combination of both, one of the strongest tracks on an album which definitely begs deeper exploration.

Samuel J. Fell

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