Stormy Mondays – Wading The River – EP Review
These guys got the ol’ hamster running hard on its wheel trying to power my brain-up to describe my thoughts on this one! Stormy Mondays…a folk-rock band from…well…from Spain…I’m 99% sure about that even though I don’t quite have all the facts and some of the ones I do have are en España. But from what I can see & gather from that…and the fact the only other town called Oviedo I could find was in Florida…I don’t feel like I’m taking much of a risk in saying that Jorge, Pablo, Dani, Rafa and the other Danny probably, most-likely, kinda-sorta, pretty-sure they come from Spain…yeah.
As their new Wading The River EP started out with “Love And Fire” and the Spain-based crew began to sing along in English, it really made me stop and think for a moment this time around. Many times…more often than not really…in dealing with a band/artist outside of North America, those words still come back to us in English as well. It made me think about how there’s almost no possible way to get a perspective on just how important this is/isn’t from my own North American-based perspective. That is to say…I’ve never once gotten up in the morning and felt all of sudden like I had the need to sing in French…or to try and become part of the mainstream music of Germany by learning the language and then writing songs based in German…you know what I mean? Success isn’t any more of a guarantee in English than it is in any other language out there…but it does have more global-audience I guess. I wish I could know just how important bands from outside of the English language felt it was to be able to accomplish that crossover…I wonder how much of a focus is placed on it and how hard musicians work to break free from the constraints of whatever local environment they’re in has. I guess I’m just saying it’s a whole wrench thrown into the plans of every musician that doesn’t naturally sing in English…or so it would seem; but you bands in North America…next time before you go out on tour…do your best to adapt your song into Italian…or Spanish…or French…you get the idea – 99% of you would never even go out on tour if this was the criteria. So think about that the next time you hear music from another part of the world that comes back to you in English – they’re not only showing the ability to write and play like any other musician, they also had to deal with the language barrier and become comfortable to the point where they felt they could truly still make the music come to life because of it. In almost every case you’d consider – this is a commendable effort to say the least…I know I couldn’t do it.
All this being said…musically-speaking…I’ve typically found anything off the North American continent to either be light-years ahead of what we’re listening to now here, or potentially that same distance behind us in our music’s past…rarely, if ever, do I hear it hitting the current attitude that reflects our modern mainstream. Of course, that’s not a requirement…just an observation…one that I do strongly feel applies to Stormy Mondays. Whether it’s melodies from The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones…you can certainly name other worldwide sensations that have influenced the sound/style of Stormy Mondays. A track like “Nobody Knows” reveals that North American influence in the musicianship & writing deeply…but I have to admit it’s all pulled off pretty darn well. It has a few moments where the accent can take over and bring a sliding, slippery sound to the words sung in English…but at the same time, it really does provide a more unique sound to the ears than what you’ve probably typically encountered. I’d cite songs like “Silent Star” as a real highlight…I love the chorus of this song…fantastic drums & violin lead the way, but also a real sweet, innocent melody that takes a hold of those English words and really makes them beautiful as they’re sung.
“Struck By Life” would be a great example of what I meant about the past of music coming to life in their work today. For the most part…this song/sound was first explored by The Rolling Stones…then lightened-up by people like Bruce Springsteen & Todd Rundgren…and eventually, if anything, watered-down supremely by bands like Soul Asylum in the mid-90’s…or covered by bands like the Foo Fighters (“Baker Street” will come to mind when the saxophone comes out) but that’s it, that’s all. That’d be the last time you’d find this sound to be a current one of this part of the chunk of rock we call our planet. That being said…the musicianship & instrumentation…the assembly and structure, it’s familiar yes – but also well-played; the enthusiasm, energy and passion are clearly there and Stormy Mondays sound their best & brightest in the familiar-sounding, comforting rhythm & groove of “Struck By Life.”
I dig the jazzed-up vibe that starts out “One Note (Rock And Roll)” which actually breaks into an acoustic-guitar line that almost sounds identical to some of the ideas in The Tragically Hip’s “Fiddler’s Green” for those that know it. And of course, for those that know The Tragically Hip, you also know they can’t even get themselves recognized for their amazing efforts across our border to the USA…so to think that Stormy Mondays from Spain have come by this sound anything but honestly would be a little strange. Overall, “One Note (Rock And Roll)” owes much more to David Bowie and Elton John than it does anywhere else…you could easily site “Space Oddity” or “Rocketman” as influences on this particular tune. Stormy Mondays pull this combination off in the most convincing performance on the entire EP…loved everything from the vocals, to the guitars, the synth is fantastic and so are the saxophone & drums. As far as unique goes…maybe/maybe not…that’s up to you to evaluate I suppose just as much as me; to me it’s not necessarily re-inventing the wheel, but “One Note (Rock And Roll)” is a hell of a damn good listen and a great song.
Ending on perhaps their best however, Stormy Mondays really brighten the energy and atmosphere with their final song “Not Enough,” which even ends itself with a much-deserved round of applause. Great harmonies in the sway of the groove & gentle-rhythm of “Not Enough,” overall the vocals are all great really…definitely another track where they worked solidly in favour of the band and music. Solid bass-lines and drums keep the beat in line through the rhythm section, but there are also spectacular solos from the guitars and keys that really liven-up this tune with versatility and bring out the best in the band right here at the very end of their EP. Saxophone jumps into the mix once again…can’t express just how wonderful it’s been every time it’s shown up in the music…great player with great feel there; but again, through the solo-work here from the keys & guitar and the reliable, steady nature of the bass & drums…you can certainly tell these are competent musicians through and through. After a breakdown to nearly-nothingness…Stormy Mondays pick the beat back up once more to keep the good time going just a little longer before the very end of Wading The River and bring one last smile to your face and stunning melody to your ears before it ends to cheers of applause on the record, and most likely your own from your armchair while you listen.
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