FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Welcome to Stoney Spring

by RON JACOBS

One of my favorite bands of the past decade is the California rock country ensemble I See Hawks in LA. Sometimes electric, other times acoustic, the unceasingly intricate and melodic guitar work, sweet vocals and lyrical sensibility featured across I See Hawks’ catalog reminds the listener that rock and roll can be incisive and fun without giving an inch.

The original drummer of I See Hawks was Anthony Lacques. Just last month Anthony released a CD of his own. Titled Right On Heliotrope!, this disc from Anthony Lacques’ newest band Stoney Spring finds a few members of I See Hawks working behind Anthony. Many of the vocals are from Rob Waller, who also sings lead for I See Hawks. The band is rounded out with Paul Lacques’ pedal steel and guitar and Sly and the Family Stone’s Jimi Hawes bass playing. Waller’s baritone voice has a gentle, melodic authority that encourages a close listening to the lyrics he’s putting forth. Piano dominates many of the tunes here, sounding occasionally like Mose Allison and sometimes like early Herbie Hancock, but always unique. The prominence of the piano doesn’t mean the guitar is not worth noting. Indeed, the less defined nature of Stoney Spring’s music in terms of genre gives Paul Lacques greater room to display his artistry and versatility on the instrument. Occasionally as anthemic as the best stadium rock, sometimes sitar-like, it is always fluid and quintessentially pleasing.stoneyspring

The songs on Right on Heliotrope! hit a number of themes. There’s a quick commentary on the vapid (make that nauseating) nature of modern capitalist culture titled “New Blood.” That is followed by one of the cleverest attacks on that economic system’s current insidious plan to make a dollar off of everything, every thought, every resource, and every human service in existence. This song, titled “Jobs,” is nominally about the Apple Corporation’s Steve Jobs. In reality, Jobs is just a useful and deserving foil in this ditty. “I don’t blame Steve Jobs,” goes one verse “for making rock and roll a shopping mall.” Several other examples of Apple’s ongoing privatization of human relationships are sung, reminding the listener of the corruption of our lives. This, however, is only one aspect of the tune.

It is the other aspect that hits closer. That is our complicity in Apple’s campaign. We voluntarily give up our privacy and our record albums for the sleek sexiness and convenience of the IPhone and its apps. Like Johnny Cash’s 1971 song “Man in Black” and its verse “Well, we’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose/With our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes…” Lacques’s point in this song (and the previous one) is not only that the content of our songs, films, and television shows help to form a consumerist mentality, so does the method of their delivery. When considered in the manner put forth in this song, the transition from jukebox to hi-fi to boom box to MP3 players defines the privatization of public performance in a very obvious and tangible manner. Stoney Spring reminds us that we are as complicit in the destruction of our spiritual selves as the corporations who provide us with the means to do so.

Anyone who’s listened to Golden Oldie Radio knows there is a long tradition of teenage death songs. Two that come to mind when considering this genre are the 1960 US hit for Ray Peterson titled “Tell Laura I Love Her” and the 1959 Jean Dinning-composed “Teen Angel.” Stoney Spring puts their own twist to these tunes with the song “Class of 1975.” This song doesn’t pretend to the innocence of its predecessors. The girl ending up as a corpse here accidentally overdoses; there are no train tracks or car crashes, just too much fun. Neither are there any declarations of undying love here, just the singer’s story of a friendship with a hippie girl who partied too hard one weekend on Quaaludes and whiskey and died.

Like the aforementioned I See Hawks in LA, Stoney Spring understands the essentially desperate times we face. Yet, despair is not the essence of their music. Instead, one finds a joyful challenge to the ever expanding matrix that would render our cultural pursuits to be less meaningful than the dollar bills we pay for it. Political without the abrasiveness so often associated with that term, insightful without being preachy, and, most importantly, enjoyable, this first disc from Stoney Spring is worth checking out.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail