Album Spotlight: The Stedwells - "Live and Stripped Down"

>>Watching a movie and seeing the same screen adapted for the stage is often times an eye-opening experience. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a raving mad movie only made more ravenous by the starkness of the stage. The same could be said about the 1985 adaptation of Death of a Salesman. The stage can warp your reality even more than a movie. The people are real and in that is a deeper connection that digs at your soul, little hand motions of actors that you can’t see during a close-up scene give you more nostalgia then the camera angle.

Listening to this album puts you in the lap of lead singer Ryan Warren of The Stedwells. From the very outset of the album you can hear his slight rasp and wind when he counts out the rhythm before starting the acoustic version of Pipedreams, a track previously released. The piano adds a back porch feeling, a summer with the screen door propped open without worrying, a simple and strong approach to a familiar track.

The next few tracks are unreleased on previously recorded albums. Run out the Back keeps the piano and offers an excellent transition from Pipedreams. Warren’s voice edging into punk rock, a raspy breaking that doesn’t peak the mics and allows some raw emotion to drip onto an already full canvas. The next track up, Jump In, starts with a catchy riff on guitar and this time Alex Durr adds in some permanent drums. The track could have easily existed on Exile on Main Street, a dark reverb hanging over the track like an artistic cloud. The sharp and staccato lyrics in the verses are juxtaposed by the lullaby like chorus. The ending offers some change ups on the guitar riff that are both welcomed and well written.

Sea Side, another previously unreleased track, is a beautiful track, with stunningly lovely lyrics. It sounds like a love song, but has a slight reminiscing sadness to it, as if you’re looking back decades. It’s sepia toned, an old photograph that you’ve looked at a million times but keeps showing you something new. It might be they’re most well written song, perfectly pieced together and able to easily paint a picture, a song so sweet that even the most casual music fan would melt away.

The choice to cover a Noel Gallagher song gives some perspective into their musical influences. It’s a great song and one that maybe a lot of people looked over when it first came out almost ten years ago already. Listening brings back visions of Devon Ogden being shoved into a shallow pool of water and remembering the terse anticipation of her getting back out. Burn Me Down completes the Stripped Down album and is a great song no matter how they play it. The opening drum line has a moment of ‘94 in it, a Come Out and Play vibe until the guitar kicks and vocals kick in. The rasp is back in Warren’s voice and it’s a fun way to end the album.

The Stedwells continue outdoing themselves with every release. This album proves how versatile they can be, how spontaneous and emotive, how retrospective and intelligent. Every time there’s a release you learn something new about this band and having such an intimate approach to Stripped Down exposed them even further. This is a must listen to album.