Album: Chris Stamey

Travels in the South, YEP ROC

Travels in the South is the first collection of new material from Chris Stamey in a dozen years, the former dB's frontman having moved to the other side of the glass, as it were, to become producer for such Americana acts as Whiskeytown and Alejandro Escovedo. His thusly swollen contacts book has enabled Stamey to call on a stellar alt.rock session crew for this project, including the likes of Ben Folds, Ryan Adams and Don Dixon - the latter perhaps partly responsible for the early REM flavour of a track such as "14 Shades of Green", whose chiming, epiphanic guitars celebrate a survey of old haunts and adolescent histories. Not that a pop classicist like Stamey really needs any help as regards musical pilfering and pastiche: when he's not borrowing intros from sources as diverse as Paul Simon's "I Am a Rock" or Hall & Oates' "She's Gone", he's essaying a cross between The Byrds and Brill Building pop, or whipping up a froth of Allman Brothers-style intertwining guitars ("K Jam" and the coda to "Kierkegaard"), with remarkable accuracy. As the album title suggests, travel is the dominant theme here, treated either as a kind of waking dream in the title-track, a celebration of memories in "Ride", and the pop-stained fantasies of a visitor who has "waited all my life to see the streets of Spanish Harlem". An accomplished, enjoyable journey.