Stone White – Groove Thang – Album Review
Sometimes it can be a satisfying feeling to know you’re going to get what you think you’re going to get. Having a look at the cover of Stone White’s new record…dude’s got his struttin’ black suit on, fedora hat, red tie…large watch just peeking out from the cuff; that might not suggest as much as it does to everyone else out there as it might to me – but everything you see visually at a first impression would certainly lead me to believe I’m in for some funk or at the very least some jazz. Maybe a bit of like…Joe Cocker, Robbie Nevil or Robert Palmer kind of funk/blues rock in there too. Given the vast amount of tie-ins between the two genres in general, it might be safe to assume that you’ll get doses of both – but you’ll find that Stone White has even more to offer in terms of sound & style than you’d ever expect.
My ears respond to true passion on display in any genre. Regardless of any artist/band’s skill-level, beyond all-things I really believe that you can always hear how MUCH that artist/band gives to their work – and I truly subscribe to the theory that this is actually what forms our connection to what we hear and how much we end up liking something. I don’t get enough funk in my life…that’s a fact. YOU probably don’t either…I don’t know that anyone DOES – is there such a thing as too much funk in a person’s life? I don’t think so. I’ll admit…half the appeal of the opening tune/title-track “Groove Thang” was just the fact that there was some verifiable funk with real instrumentation coming through the speakers when that hasn’t been the case in a while – but the other half of what got me right into this cut was Stone White’s passion and commitment to his performance! <—- (that’s right, exclamation worthy!)
With horns flaring & blaring, creative guitar solos, rubbery-smooth bass-lines, all kinds of additional keyboard sounds putting vibrant stuff into the background, crisp snap on the drums…the music’s all in-line and the stage is set for Stone White to get his “Groove Thang” on – and he truly does. There is always an audience for music like this…because it makes you move, makes you dance…”Groove Thang” is the kind of song that brings the good-times to YOU, wherever you might be. It’s skilled, rhythmic – and most importantly in the opening of this record, it’s enticing and sounds like genuine FUN; Stone is right into it…when an artist is right into the moment like this, we as listeners want to come along and join in on the excitement.
Stone White must have sensed that. He doesn’t just create another solid tune to follow the title-track, he cranks up the energy and tries to encourage a full-on funk-revival through “Get On Down.” I LOVE this amount of commitment and focus…the music on this track is SO TIGHT, 100% spot-on and massively entertaining, which leaves Stone to rise to the occasion. With a classic howl into the song, he doesn’t sit back & wait – he leads the way! This guy gets right into the mix early, feeling the vibe and feeling the flow and the energy of both the vocals and music of “Get On Down” never quits on you. I’m a little bit indifferent on the lyrics themselves so far…I wouldn’t deny that they fit and that they’re respectful of the genre overall, they are – but I suppose if there’s perhaps an opportunity to still grow a bit more, it might be in that area. Right now we’ve heard Stone White deliver two back-to-back impressive & convincing funk songs played with genuine passion…and he’s got the advantage of being a rarer sound in today’s world which also leads to an instant appeal – but I still want to hear a bit more at this point early-on to find out more about what his signature sound & style is really all about.
Because if you did just end up assuming that you knew all about Stone White’s music from just those first two tracks, you’re immediately about to find out differently through what comes next. “Higher Ground” takes on a light-rock, gentle & inviting atmosphere with sincere lyrics that certainly reflect the true character, sentiment & intentions of the man on the mic. As much FUN as I had throughout those first two songs and as impressive as Stone was in his performance – I kind of found myself drifting towards “Higher Ground” more & more on repeated listens. I think that connection between the performance, the lyricism and the energy exists strongly here; I dig the added background vocals and additional vocalizations from Stone and think they added a ton of personality and heart into this tune.
So…there you have it right? Some funk…a little bit of the lighter-side of rock…you again, might start to think you’ve got a grip on where he’ll head to next…but probably not! “Feel The Fire” unleashes the edgier-side of Stone’s music…and if you had ANY doubt about whether this man can really sing, he’s about to silence his critics with stunning range on display and powerful notes in abundance. Fueled by the moment once more – you can hear White summoning the strength and power along the way to push this song to its maximum potential…and in my opinion, it’s through his vocals here that it truly does reach its goal & intentions. Showing impressive versatility in his own style and diversity in his sound – Stone White is creating a seriously entertaining album here that rolls along smoothly, bound cohesively together through his identifiable vocals and the amount of true character his voice has. “Everybody Is Loved By Somebody” is all the proof you need as he takes the album in a pop-inspired direction that works so incredibly well for him it’s borderline ridiculous! How many styles can he be successful at? Stone absolutely nailed the rhythm, groove & gospel-aspects of “Everybody Is Loved By Somebody” and puts out a surefire hit song through this clever combination. After a tender beginning in how he approaches the verse, this song lights-up before a minute-in and the energy becomes absolutely captivating through the vibrant hooks of the chorus. When you listen to ‘how’ Stone White sings and the way this song moves…I think fans of modern-day bands like Florence + The Machine, Cold War Kids or even the Black Crowes would get this for sure…”Everybody Is Loved By Somebody” is a strong tune and a highlight on what’s already been an impressive ride.
“By My Side” dials the energy back as Stone takes on a heartfelt ballad. This to me, was where that added character that his identifiable style has really counted; I think this particular song in the hands of another artist wouldn’t have worked out nearly as well. That audible connection to the words and the passion he puts into expressing them is perhaps at its strongest here. He’s almost got a Meat Loaf thing going-on in the way he sings this song…and BEFORE you start to chuckle, let me remind you that the Loaf is one of the more technically proficient singers you’ll hear in a lifetime. Similar approach here from Stone that’s full of skill and heart with added elements of theatrics & dramatics in the way he’s performed it.
I loved the opening, soaring guitar-riff that starts out “Face Of A Nation” and the quick roll that Stone gets going through the vocals in the verse. I dig the hook of the chorus…I really like the bass on this particular song as well. The guitar-work on this cut is tremendously impressive – “Face Of A Nation” wasn’t my favorite track on the album by a fair stretch, but it still had entertainment value. I don’t fully blame Stone for my reaction to this one…I’ve never really been one for flag-waving or nationalistically-inclined songs of any kind and right now, especially burned out on American ones due to the recent onslaught of proud patriot tunes. Not against the idea of making them if that’s your thing…and it HAS been inspiring to see musicians rise up to express themselves in the face of adversity as of late…not taking anything away from it, or at least I’m not trying to…just wasn’t my thing as much as the rest.
Groove Thang gets back on track for me with “Angels Don’t Let Me Down” and the stunning combination of Stone’s performance and impressive lyrics. There have been some real moments along the way through this record where you can feel that 10% additional bit of strength in the connection to the words and the way he sings them confidently with complete understanding of their meaning and the mark he wants to hit – I felt like this was indeed, one of those tunes. “Angels Don’t Let Me Down” might not move or groove you as strongly as some of the rest do on Groove Thang – but there’s a time and place for every emotion in music and I think this track displays another dimension & facet of his songwriting & style while still delivering a seriously satisfying listen.
I was a bit mixed on “Where Will You Stand” because there are without a doubt, some of the record’s most explosive moments of entertainment here…but there were also a few spots that felt like they were less familiar to Stone…like it was one of the more recent tunes to be written & recorded for the album. Could just be the way I’m hearing it…I’m hearing him search a little in the verses/pre-chorus to find the right gear that he can be sure-of and then firing-off vocal rockets of confidence in the chorus. I still think he manages to find solid enough ground to stand on – but I do think the difference between the energy you’ll find he performs the chorus with contrasts a bit more jarringly with the verse than perhaps intended. Don’t get me wrong…that chorus is supposed to come out sounding as gigantic and impressive as it DOES…”Where Will You Stand” just seemed a little less focused in the verse. All that being said – I DO think that this is bar-none one of the strongest overall ideas on the entire record…and whomever is supplying the female backup vocals should win an award for 100% awesomeness – between her electrifying voice and Stone’s amped-up energy in the chorus, this song still became highly memorable and a song I looked forward to over subsequent listens, every time through the album.
Taking the music into the direction of a David Baerwald or even a David Gray – the emotion of “Her Sweet Memory” hangs heavy in the air. Another highly satisfying tune…I think the uniqueness of the way he’s created the flow & hook of the chorus really counted here. Add in the excellent instrumentation through the guitar-solos, haunting background vocals and sparkling accenting piano-notes and you’ve got the recipe for another deep tune that you’ll find on this record. As far as the sound itself goes…I’m impressed once again by how well Stone White has been able to transition from track to track and offer so many different styles & sounds while still having it all sound like it belongs together on one experience and one album. That’s not an easy thing to do…give the man some credit! “Her Sweet Memory” deals with yearning, pain, loss and the mix of emotions that comes with remembering the ones we love…I think he did a great job on this song and the honesty you’ll hear in the words – and it’s one of the more artistically structured & sounding tracks from Groove Thang.
“Lonely People” once again gives you some additional insight into the mindset, heart and emotions found inside its main-star. Stone once again puts in a highlight performance on the microphone and ends the album on strong notes and beautiful hooks in the chorus contrasting the melancholy nature of the lyrics. According to his social-media…he’s got Nashville running through his blood from being born & raised there…you can the ‘Nashville songwriting stamp’ on a few of the tunes along the way throughout the album and certainly on its final track “Lonely People” – but thankfully, this isn’t an artist that has been watered-down to fit the design like so many others. Time and time again throughout listening to Groove Thang you can tell that it’s been Stone White’s instincts that have led these songs and this record to its overall victory through him leading the way confidently down multiple directions and into a multitude of styles & sounds. He’s audibly proven himself to be capable of anything he chooses to take on and delivered a thoroughly entertaining record with Groove Thang that’s full of versatility, fun, heart and outrageous talent; a genuinely committed, highly enthusiastic and skilled performer that has the ability to pull you right out of your world and right into the magic of his own.
Find out more about Stone White through his official homepage at: https://stonewhitemusic.com
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