Album Review: Stoney LaRue — Velvet

Ken Morton, Jr. | September 20th, 2011

stoney larue velvetWith smart songwriting sensibilities and Texas everyman vocals, Stoney LaRue’s long overdue second studio album Velvet is worth the wait. LaRue and his producers, Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram and Lee Ann Womack) and Mike McCarthy (Patty Griffin), have combined meaningful lyrics with a production sound that would have been interesting all by itself. The best part is that while they’re modern in approach, they never completely abandon the rootsy and authentic feel that made LaRue’s first studio album, 2005’s The Red Dirt Album, so special.

From the minute the album opens with the outstanding “Dresses,” it’s evident that the approach to the intelligent songwriting and production is going to be different. Minor chords are picked hard and a high solo snare drum is laid in behind each line. Melancholy lyrics wax poetically, “So hang me out to dry with all your dresses in the yard/Dancin’ with the wind and all its changes/Clouds they move the shadows on down the boulevard to bury me again/With all its rain.”

Over and over again, each song is given an instrumentation treatment that makes it a unique experience for the ears. Whether it is the card shuffling percussion on “Travelin’ Kind,” the terrific harmonica on “Sharecropper,” the mariachi influence on “Te Amo Mas Que Va Vida” (I Love You More Than Life), the piccolo-ish whistle on “Wiregrass,” or the drowned out CB vocal opening and blazing fiddles on “Sirens,” each track is truly unique unto itself while still tying into a whole. The fact that Lee Ann Womack brings her heavenly vocals onto “Travelin’ Kind” is like the cherry on top. And while LaRue’s vocals don’t have a deep richness like a Chris Young or a distinctive gritty texture of a Ray Wylie Hubbard, his voice falls somewhere in between. He delivers quality, common man vocals, with just enough of that Texas grit to match the everyman-themed lyrics well.

It is the title track that steals the show on the album, however. “Velvet” closes the curtain with a lush, warm, and sensual slow number that is not overly sexual, but one of those songs that is just perfect to hold your girl to. Sarah Buxton chiming in on background vocals just adds to the heat.  It’s only appropriate, then, that the physical copy of the CD is wrapped up in fuzzy red cover. LaRue’s made an outstanding album look like it sounds: easy and smooth as, well, velvet.

4 Stars

 

  1. Rick
    September 20, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Gosh, I wonder what Rita Ballou thinks about Rocky LaDue’s latest effort? Hmm…

    Nice review Ken. It was almost enough to motivate me to listen to a track or two, but Stoney’s red dirt scene connection is a deal breaker for me. Oh well…

  2. the pistolero
    September 20, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Stoney’s red dirt scene connection is a deal breaker for me

    Why not judge the music on its own merits as opposed to who the singer runs with?

  3. Andrew
    September 21, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Because I’m convinced Rick doesn’t actually like music.

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