Note to purchasers: The MP3 download contains bonus tracks not available on the CD and LP. If you purchase the LP or CD and would like these bonus tracks, please contact David Stephenson thru this website. Thank you.
They say you can never really go home again. In March of 2011, David Stephenson loaded up his car with his girls (guitars) and travelled down to Mesa, Arizona to record his third full-length record. Waiting at the studio door was the strange, yet familiar face of Gerald Schoenherr. Through the modern miracle of Facebook, David and Gerald reconnected after some 30 years since gallivanting around the hallowed halls of Port Huron Northern High School (Michigan). Back in the day they were Punks; patrons of the now legendary/defunct Full Moon Record Store and held captive by the nearby auditory assault of 70's Detroit Rock City radio. This digital download contains bonus material not contained on the physical LP and CD.
Advance Review of "High Lonesome"
For 9 straight days, the two men hammered out tune after tune, operating with an unspoken trust that can only be forged from a shared musical heritage (or prison). The songs on "High Lonesome" are offered to you, the casual listener, in much the same way that they unfolded in the Reposa Room at Flying Blanket Records. There was no time for second guessing, buzz-killing multiple takes, or over wrought production techniques. The mission mantra, declared by David at the beginning of the session was, "blood on the microphone, blood on the console". These are songs cut close from the bone and bristling with real super-human energy. Whether it's the hovering ghost of Waylon Jennings (Big Heart Attack, Missing Arizona) or the resurrection of Port Huron's own Industrial pioneers, Hunting Lodge (8 Ball), the focus is on the vitality of live performance and intuition. Not enough Port Huron reference for you? The song “Bess McCullough” was inspired by the cowbell ringing matron of the late 70’s Port Huron Flags. Listen and you will hear a fight song to be played during one of the occasional rink clearing brawls that made the International Hockey League famous.
The seeds of "High Lonesome" began to take serious sprout in December of 2010. Amidst ample personal turmoil, David bought a round trip Amtrak ticket back to Port Huron from his home on the Southern Oregon Coast. After a few delightful weeks of visiting family and friends, David jumped back on the train with his spiral-bound song journal and realized that he had more than plenty of material with which to record a new album. In a strange twist of fate, the train stopped in Chicago and a young artist by the name of Jessamyn Patterson plopped down in the adjoining seat. While sharing a bottle of fine quality bourbon (Maker’s Mark), Jess pulled out her sketchbook of intricately detailed graphite pencil drawings and David was smitten. With a hung-over handshake, Jess agreed to produce the cover art for David's as yet to be titled record. No specific subject matter was dictated. Track number 1 is named after the drawing name, penciled onto the face of the reptile stripper woman, "Aminal".
Bob Hoag (Pollen, The Ataris, and The Go Reflex) played dynamite drums on the ode to rural discontent 'Better Days" and the Buzzcockesque "Inside Out". He also lent his ears on innumerable occasions and displayed heapin' helpings of generosity as the Captain of the Good Ship Flying Blanket.
Gerald Schoenherr (El Sonida De Reposa, Sound of Singles, Old Overholt) co-produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered the album at Flying Blanket Recording. As if that not enough, G-Bone unleashed his baritone backing vocals on more than a few tunes (Missing Arizona, 8 Ball, Better Days) and flexed his sinewy guitar/moog muscles all over "High Lonesome". Without his jovial, back-slapping sense of humor it is doubtful whether some of the more melancholy songs on this album could have been fully articulated. The John North Wrightian styled number "Lansing's Burning" showcases both his guitar style and his studio acumen. Multiple dub/remix versions by DJ G Bone of Lansing's Burning can be obtained when purchasing the digital download version of the album. So as the song says, when in doubt……..“Take the Amtrak, take the Amtrak back to Port Huron”.
The album High Lonesome by David Stephenson is the creative brainchild of a nine day recording session in Mesa, Arizona. As stated by Stephenson, the songs on High Lonesome are presented to the listener “in much the same way that they unfolded in the Reposa Room at Flying Blanket Records.” This lends a raw essence to the album that perfectly compliments the material.
Stephenson is accompanied by Gerald Schoenherr, who engineered, mixed and mastered the album as well as lent his appreciable guitar skills. Also appearing on select tracks is Bob Hoag on drums. The songs on High Lonesome have traces of a variety of genres from country western to punk to psychedelic rock. With this eclectic offering, listeners will be sure to find at least one song that reaches out to them in some way.
The album opens with the instrumental track “Aminal,” which has an interesting story behind it. As Stephenson was riding Amtrack back to his home in Oregon from Michigan, he made the acquaintance of an artist named Jessamyn Patterson. She agreed to produce the cover art for his upcoming album High Lonesome and the song “Aminal” was inspired by the drawing she did. With a bit of psychobilly and a touch of country, the opening track is a foot tapper with a catchy beat and clean instrumentation.
“Bess McCullough” is an early punk-laden piece and Stephenson’s vocals are reminiscent of Robert Smith of the Cure, most particularly during the Boys Don’t Cry era. The song itself isn’t truly a standout piece of music, but it does have attitude and a certain flair that brings to mind early punk pioneers like The Ramones. “Big Heart Attack” is a country western song through and through with a strong Waylon Jennings influence. The sadly melodic rhythm is the perfect match to the heart-wrenching lyrics. Stephenson’s vocals are delivered in a soft style that carries the emotion of the song well. “Take Me In The Spring” also has a country flavor to it, but rather than a sense of sadness, this track offers a feeling of hope. The lyrics are uplifting and the guitar work is done with graceful skill. This could easily be a fan favorite.
“8 Ball” changes the pace significantly with a nearly industrial vibe to it. Stephenson is all over the board on High Lonesome and this offering comes as a wholly unexpected surprise. Fans of Ministry will likely be delighted with this piece and listeners with a vivid imagination might picture a version of Al Jourgensen strutting down a deserted western street with a pair of six shooters and a flame thrower. “Missing Arizona” reverts back to Jennings style country and Stephenson even yodels. At this point in the album, listeners may be slightly confused. Is this a country album? Is this guy a punk? Is he Al Jourgensen or Willy Nelson? Stephenson seemingly wants to take pieces and parts from a variety of genres and influences and create something uniquely his own. He succeeds admirably, but his listeners may not know what to make of the wildly different offerings on the album.
“Inside Out” is a snappy number with excellent harmonica playing and an upbeat catchy rhythm that lends itself wonderfully to the well-written lyrics. The sound quality on this piece is a bit tinny, but aside from that, this is one of the standout tracks on the album, showcasing Stephenson’s lighter side despite the lovesick nature of the lyrics. “Better Days” is another exceptionally well-written song, although the sound quality is tinny on this track too. Stephenson’s vocals are occasionally pitchy, but overall, this offering is what listeners have come to expect from High Lonesome; a solid piece of music with polished guitar work and honest lyrics.
The highlight of the album is “Lansing’s Burning,” an epic track with a killer sound. Bordering on psychedelic electronica, this piece summarizes everything David Stephenson wanted to accomplish with the eclectic High Lonesome. The track has attitude, a smooth beat, blazing guitar work and a polished sound. While some of the offerings on the album may not please everyone, everyone will be fascinated by the closing track, “Lansing’s Burning.” Listeners who were not quite sure what to make of Stephenson will now understand the creativity this artist has and better appreciate the diversity contained within the album.
Reviewed by Rhonda Readence