Born in Austin and raised on the Blackland Prairie of Denton County Texas, Stark knows whereof he sings. As chief singer and songwriter for the critically acclaimed band Blue Diamond Shine, Stark has put together an impressive musical resume, paying dues in the beer joints and honky-tonks of South Texas, touring and releasing three albums, and working as a side-man for Eric Hisaw, Ron Flynt, and Bonny Holmes among others.
"Shrimp Boat Town evokes a place where, in frontman R.G. Stark's elegant bayou poetry, "The jukebox is your only friend." His well-spent quarters pay handsome dividends... If Huey P. Meaux were still around, he'd hustle Stark into his Sugar Hill Studios double time..."
— Christopher Gray The Austin Chronicle
After too many years as a forklift operator on a warehouse receiving dock (earning the R.G. monikker: Receiving Genius), Stark purchased an R.V. travel-trailer in East Austin, quit the day job, and began writing songs for "Not Crazy Tonight". The album was recorded with Ron Flynt (20/20, The Bluehearts)
at his Jumping Dog studio, featuring BDS mates Eric Hisaw, Vicente Rodriguez, and Kevin Kelnar, as well as Austin guitar legend Scrappy Jud Newcomb. Neil Flanz who toured with the notorious Gram Parsons Fallen Angels Band makes an appearance as well.
The songs continue where the latest BDS release,
"Shrimp Boat Town" left off. (Selected as a top 10 for 2006 by The Austin Chronicle's Chris Gray). The new record continues exploring the human geography of the gulf coast and borderlands. "Not Crazy Tonight" moves farther west... "where the shooting stars and semi-trucks streak across the rolling plains" (Mineral Wells), examining the lives and tribulations of characters on both sides of the border... "Now the bright lights shine before us, like a thousand eyes of desperate birds of prey" (Coyote)... "I hear the pain in your Spanish serenade, the sin and dark skin, the trouble we're in" (Lorena). But there is a sense of hope on this journey, where... "with faith and conviction a place of redemption we'll find on our way" (Lorena).
"Stark twangs with the kind of gothic/desperate-men-do-desperate-things lyrics that haunt while propelling the boot-scooting..." — Jim Beal San Antonio Express-News
If you've ever heard the tire hum shift as you passed a county line marker, if you've ever spent a heartbroken night in a dusty honky-tonk where the jukebox was your only friend, if you have ever wandered past a pay phone in the driving rain without making a call, then you've entered R.G. Stark territory..
4 Stars from Mr. Conquest:
On paper, it's hard to see quite where Blue Diamond Shine ends and frontman John 'RG' Stark starts, as his core players are Blue Diamond Shine's guitarist Eric Hisaw,
drummer Vicente Rodriguez and accordionist Kevin Kelnar, along with Ron Flynt bass, keyboards and "miscellaneous," which means his album has most all of Blue Diamond
Shine's strengths, mainly his idiosyncratic, asymmetrical songwriting and Hisaw's always excellent guitar work. However, with a few outside helpers, such as Scrappy Jud Newcomb, who plays guitar on two tracks and rather neatly describes Stark as "like a cross between Doug Sahm and Jimmy Webb," coproducers Stark and Flynt have come up with a big sound that constantly flirts with bombast but stays on the righteous side. Stark's work with Blue Diamond Shine has been described as "roots noir," "Western surreal," "Bayou poetry," but on this outing, I'd qualify Jim Beal Jr's "Gothic" as 'Gulf Coast Gothic.' Stark has always covered a lot of ground in his songs, with a particular, richly metaphorical, emphasis on backroads, small towns and swamplands, but has expanded his geographical range, exporing westwards to Mineral Wells, eastwards to Abbeville, LA, south to Narcocorrido Nuevo
Laredo, Monterrey and the Border (Coyote). Not that's he'sjust a musical gazeteer, Secret Girl and She Comes And Goes are more routine, or at any rate as routine as Stark gets, which isn't very.
— John Conquest
3rd Coast Music