Waking Stone – Singles

 Waking Stone – Singles

Waking Stone – Singles Review

We’ve been introduced to this duo’s music years ago under a different name…but we’ll get to that in due time.  For now, let’s see what we can tell ya about the latest singles released by Waking Stone.

Okay…so…here’s where I’m at with what I’m hearing on this first single “Ashes To Ashes” – and I think it’s something that a lot of folks out there in this music-scene we share can often overlook.  Essentially, there’s a chasm of difference between a song that’s well-composed or well-played, and one that’s going to catch on with the people out there listening.  I suppose what I’m telling ya, is you can put every fiber of your being into making a song, but that still doesn’t necessarily equate to people out there feeling the same way about it that the creators of it would – make sense?  If not, have a sit down with any artist or band that has spent their life making Progressive Rock, and they’ll tell ya all about what it’s like to not be heard in the way that you’d hoped you would be.  I listen to “Ashes To Ashes” and I can easily hear the effort that’s been put in by both Jim and Ashley Cash of Waking Stone – heck, it’s practically operatic in scale when it comes right down to it & the demands being placed on Ashley’s outright stunning vocals.  I look at it this way – they’re focused more on content than they are on necessarily gearing their songs to have the kind of hooks the masses will quickly respond to.  Is that a bad thing?  I’ll let you decide…I’ve come to appreciate that everyone out there has different goals when it comes to what they want to do with their music & where they want their art to end up.  In a just society, where effort equated directly to attention, these two would be doin’ absolutely great, but in a world where solid musicianship, potent lyrics, and powerful vocals are no longer enough to stop people in their tracks to listen for a hot minute, Waking Stone still realistically has their work cut out for them if they’re looking to get their music out there.  What has resonated about this duo ever since I started listening way back when nearly five years ago when they were going by the name Woven Green, is that I never really felt like they were trying to manufacture attention to begin with…they’re making the music they wanna make, and quite likely know that it’s somewhat out of lockstep with what’s out there circulating the tops of charts right now already.  In my opinion, that should never be the motivation for creation anyhow y’all…do what you do because you love to do it, and let that always be enough.  And to be truthful, I think for Jim and Ashley, that it is.

It’s funny…I live in promotions, so I take just about every comment that comes my way with the ol’ proverbial grain of salt.  I was told that what we’d hear in Waking Stone was ‘heavier and darker’ than what I’d previously experienced with Jim and Ashley’s music as Woven Green, and while I suppose that’s not technically wrong, I’m listening to “Is It Too Late?” wondering how accurate that assessment could be too.  I mean, listen…Ashley’s singing about some GRIM-ASS stuff, there’s no doubt about that – but it ain’t anything you haven’t already seen on the news of any given day of the week – America’s devolving at a rapid pace and that’s clear to just about anyone out there looking at it objectively.  Is singing in front of the Washington Monument going to bring the kind of awareness capable of creating the kind of change we need as quickly as it’s required?  I mean, fuck – I sure wish that it would, but the answer has proven to be a resounding HELL NO from a country that’s become too complacent with fighting for its rights, and is now considered to be a backsliding democracy.  Do I appreciate what Waking Stone is singing about on “Is It Too Late?” and the purpose behind creating a song like this?  You betcha.  And do I wish that I still had the spark of positive optimism that Ashley has in singing about her proposed resolutions to all these crazy problems?  Of course I do.  Unfortunately, I was born as a realist and that’s the only perspective I’ve got…beyond that, I spent way too many years studying political science to have any hope for the right kind of change in America left in me.  To be fair, we’re not immune from the crazy goin’ on down there here in Canada either…the ripple effects of international fuckery spread far & wide dear readers, dear friends, I assure you.  So I’ll be the brave one and answer the question being put forth by Waking Stone – YES.  Yes, it is way too late at this point.  I wish that it wasn’t the case…I wish that a song would be enough to change some hearts and minds…but I’m as realistic and objective as I’ve ever been, and I’ve never seen the world as entrenched in its divide as stubbornly as it is in this modern age.  Catchy and upbeat though – I do appreciate where Waking Stone is coming from.  I might have a harder time considering this to be darker or heavier in the grand scheme of things, but I suppose it would have to be considered darker & heavier than the previous content they created and context of Woven Green.  To me, what resonated the most powerfully in thinking about their assessment of ‘heavier and darker’ was the fact that they’re simply singing about the way things really are right now overall; and that’s sad.  We’re living through perilously dark times at the moment…I ain’t gonna lie, any bright spot like this duo should be welcomed by one and all.  I don’t know that it changes anything, but it’s still fully appreciated.

For some additional context – I pretty much live through Waking Stone every day…my parents make a very similar kind of socially conscious music that’s fairly removed from what’s happening out there in the scene despite the best of intentions too – so believe me, I’ve actually got quite a bit of experience with the kind of sound that Jim & Ashley create & the mission they’re on.  Oddly enough, as if the husband/wife duo & relatable themes hadn’t already established a decent comparison between the two bands – my parents make music under another stone-related name too – weird right?  Stone Poets.  I don’t know if that’s a birds of a feather flock together to make music under the name of something stone or stone something, just like the old saying goes or what…but yeah…seems strange to end up with similar vibes.  In addition to that, they make music in a new band called the Peacenik Collective…and I’m sure there’s always room for two more…Jim and Ashley strike me as a couple of peaceniks too.  Cross-border supergroup – let’s go!  Anyhow…I digress, as usual.  I always find a way to digress.  I am so damn good at digressing.  I really like the guitar and bass that Jim has threaded into “Still Living In War” as it begins.  All-in-all, this single kind of had this like…comparable vibe to what you’d find in The Pretenders as it started, but I’d reckon it kind of morphs along the way closer to something you’d find in like, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp…that kind of thing – at least on a musical level.  I believe in the video we’re getting a look at the duo in their own home studio, which is cool…I get the sense that they spend every spare second they’ve got in there doing what they do.  So…look…”Still Living In War” is probably one of my favorites in this handful of singles I’ve got from Waking Stone – I like the writing here…it’s insightful.  I feel like Ashley’s done a solid job of establishing the relevance to the average everyday listener out there, which is kind of key really.  Conceptually, it’s still in the same vein as the other tracks we’ve been listening to in terms of its theme, but it feels like Ashley has found the right way to make the imagery and message she’s singing about that much more tangible & vivid to those listening here.  Dig the solo in this tune that Jim adds in…I dig the way that Ashley sings this song – if we’re talking about strength, conviction, tone, power and all that combined, she clearly knocks it outta the park every time.  I also think there’s even an argument to be made that the degree of accessibility in “Still Living In War” is greater than what we’ve experienced so far in the other singles I’ve been talking about here today as well…pretty much everything about this song feels like a step in the right direction.

Where they take the most chances on a musical level, would be “Wolves At Your Back” – which, while I salute for the effort and ideas of doing things differently…yields a bit more of a noticeably mixed result.  I think they need to put this one right under the microscope and have a good objective listen to it, if only to ensure that it’s coming across the way they really want it to.  I like the idea of having the verses a little more muted so that the chorus and the message they’re putting out in that part of the music makes the most impact, if that’s what they were going for – but I’d probably argue they’ve gone too far with it, rendering the verses nearly inaudible in comparison to the clarity of the chorus, you see what I’m saying?  The idea is good, but the mix takes a whole lot of back & forth to get it to where it’s going to be the most effective.  Normally, I might not even bat too much of an eye…but given that Waking Stone seems to pride themselves largely on their lyrical content and the message they wanna beam out to ya from their music…chances are, they genuinely want you to hear everything, and at all times.  Even the music itself seems a bit hindered, subdued, and suppressed as it stands right now in the verses, with the exception of the bass, which comes through brilliantly.  Do they get a bit too heavy handed with their symbolism of blind lady justice in the video, or their attempt to be ‘heavier and darker’ with the music and the look and all that?  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what to say about all that – again, I’ve lived through all of this…those same pesky parents of mine went the alter-ego/makeup route with their band called HEAD several years ago…so I’ve been to the place where really nice people attempt to go in an edgier direction, and I’ll be honest with ya – it’s a freakin’ tough sell.  Folks like Ashley and Jim that are clearly just great people…I mean…it’s just naturally harder to pull off the ‘tough dude’ image, because we’re all human, and we see who they really are in behind it all.  I ain’t saying it’s impossible to do – it IS something that’s been done in music throughout its history in all kinds of bands and artists out there – but I stand behind it being more difficult to pull off…I think people’s genuine persona is something we can always see if we’re really paying attention.  The question becomes whether or not you want to put in a superhuman amount of effort to rebel against that, or simply lean into where your strengths really are.  “Wolves At Your Back” has Waking Stone testing the waters to see what else they’re capable of, and I fully salute that.  You can only ever know what works and what doesn’t by giving something a try.  They’ve bravely branched out to the fringe of their sound on “Wolves At Your Back” – I’m not opposed to that, but I do recognize that this would be one of those first steps too…there is technical work still to be done if this hybrid style is something that they’d want to regularly pursue in their future to follow.

I think you’d have to live outside of the USA to know how many songs there really are about the USA.  There are tunes about chicks, about cars, and about the USA – those are the three things you’re allowed to write about as songwriters, and that’s pretty much it as far as the official unwritten rules go.  Alright – look…there’s a right way to do it, and definitely a wrong way to do it.  I’d charge that on Waking Stone’s upcoming new single “Homeland,” they’ve got the right idea in the same way that The Boss chose to go about it with “Born In The USA” so long ago.  There ARE a whole bunch of reasons to love the country for what it is – but shying away from its many faults would simply be cowardice.  On “Homeland,” you’ll find Waking Stone unafraid to tackle the nittiest of gritty and get right into America’s many issues from a progressive point of view – and they’ve gone about it in a very similar way to Bruce’s classic cut in the sense that the majority of what they’re singing about will fly right over the heads of the masses.  They’re opening up a similar door for a wide variety of folks to come out to their shows and chant along as they sing about how the USA is “leading the world in every way,” where half of their audience will realize that this isn’t exactly meant to be a positive comment, and the other half will only ever hear RAH RAH USA!  The video they’ve got makes it crystal clear which side of the argument they’re on, from flags waving next to guns and money, long Walmart-inspired checkout lines and clowns like the esteemed Mr. McDonald, right down to the two main stars of this song performing on what looks like an American Idol type of stage in reference to one of the million talent shows on broadcast television.  The symbolism is found in abundance & clarifies what they’re singing about for anyone out there that still has questions.  It’s truly clever songwriting…I’m not saying these tactics are necessarily new, but they’re proven to be effective whether people realize what they’re really listening to, or not.  It’s a quality cut though, and one that speaks strongly on behalf of what Waking Stone stands for…and I think a great many of us stand with them, no matter which side of the imaginary borders we’ve scribbled on a map that we’re on.

Heavier?  Sure – heavier than we experienced with Woven Green I guess.  Are they Meshuggah or Tool?  No.  And that’s probably why I wouldn’t necessarily advertise the sound in that particular way.  Darker?  Again, I’m just gonna tell you like it is folks, because that’s what I do – it’s not so much that it’s darker as it is merely a reflection of the times we’re living in right now, which is exactly the role art and music has always been there to play when we need it the most.  The bottom line is that Waking Stone might not be in lockstep with what’s happening out there at the top of the charts, but they serve another purpose, and arguably a much more noble and important one.  Ultimately, there’s always going to be an audience for the kind of music that they’re making, built of like-minded people that know they need to stand up to oppression and call out injustices as they arise, all while listening to something inspired and insightful in the process – that ain’t a bad niche to carve out for yourself if you’re in the shoes of Waking Stone.

Find out more about Waking Stone from their official website at:  https://wakingstonemusic.com

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