Stonehouse – Junction

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Review by Paul H Birch

Taught blues, hard-driving acoustic roots rock, and a little bit of manly soul are all part and parcel of the music offered by three-piece Welsh act Stonehouse.  But it’s in the vocal department where they shine; there are songs on Junction that you’d swear were not only sung by Paul Rogers’ doppelganger but that they’d dragged in The Christians to supply backing vocals and harmonies. The fact these qualities are all delivered in service to the actual songs makes this collection an outstanding body of work. Taking their cue from literature’s short story format, they observe, redirect, and colour their lyrics to tell tales of everyday folk and the small life journeys fate forces them to embark upon, then how that affects those characters directly and impacts on those around them.

‘Junction’ itself ponders female mid-life crises as acoustics colour a sound both driven and embellished by powerful drumming. With the determined train-chugging blues funk of ‘Wintertime’ we turn to a first person narrative whereby the singer is adamant his current love life has reached its conclusion and a succinct Clapton-styled solo testifies agreeably.  Elsewhere ‘Looking for Forgiveness’ swaggers with soul as we’re told all about the foibles of a mean old guy with a bible in his hands. Different stories each, with different sounds to fit the mood that Colin Roberts (vocals, bass and acoustic), Nathan Owen (electric and acoustic guitars) and Deian Elfryn (drums, Cajun drum, and backing vocals) and friends who add keyboards and other instruments use to make each song work best.

Coming on more sensual than a continent of Latin lovers is the Welsh language harmony-sung twisting rock ’n’ roll of ‘Ceidwad’ while if Cliff Richards is looking to make credible singles again he’d not go wrong giving ‘Lonely Girl’ a listen. I kid you not on either score. For those seeking more Hendrix/Trower styled blues rock there’s ‘Take My Soul’, the aforementioned ‘Looking for Forgiveness’ takes that further down a Bad Company road then it opens up for playing loud down the highways with closing epic ‘Freedom Grains’. Not that the ballads or slower numbers should be ignored. ‘Stricken Tree’ still takes me surprise with its sensitive delivery while the broken heart ménage a trois of ‘Dark Clouds’ just tears me to pieces by the time its  musical-box-styled keyboard refrain brings the song to innocent conclusion.

Stonehouse are strong songwriters adding texture and tone for musical diversity, manly without testosterone overload; sensitive and passionate they can still rock out. They have that something special which shouldn’t be kept a secret and left to wither. Check them out and spread the word.

8.5 out of 10Stonehouse 2013

Track listing:

  1. Junction
  2. Wintertime
  3. Dark Clouds
  4. Ceidwad
  5. Lonely Girl
  6. Into Stone
  7. Take my Soul
  8. Stricken Tree
  9. Going Home
  10. Looking for Forgiveness
  11. Freedom Grains