Six months in, this is typically the time that music blogs list their favourite albums of the year so far. Well, Sufjan Stevens, Sun Kil Moon, Courtney Barnett, and My Morning Jacket are all up there on the list. And so is John Statz. I missed this record when it was first released (and missed him playing in Dublin too, darn!). So here’s a review now.
John Statz can tell a great story. The pro sportsman who retires to not very much. “They told me there’d be press jobs waiting after”. The woman who’s found dead. “She had a future, She had two daughters”. The Battle of Tannenberg (no less). “We dug trenches in hard ground”. And perhaps most movingly of all is ‘Tennessee’. It’s the story of forbidden love some time past. Jim and Tom have a lot going for them. But those were different days. “Back in those older times it wasn’t heard of, Or maybe it was just whispered behind closed doors”. So when they walk into a corner bar in Chicago, you get a sense that things aren’t going to end happily after ever. Sure enough. “They left at 1 o’clock, Billy followed them four blocks, Fired all six shots”. In a weekend that saw the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, it’s all the more resonant. But there’s more to John Statz than just great story telling. There’s a set of seemingly confessional songs too. “Red wine, sleeping pills, Help me get back to your arms”. And most of all, some great music. It hardly separates him out from a pack of other artists, but there’s a real Harvest-era Neil Young vibe to the performances. The pedal steel on a bunch of songs is worthy of the late Ben Keith and when they’re electric the guitars sound like The Stray Gators have just reformed and are still at the peak of their powers. This is John Statz’s fifth (or sixth) album. Whatever happened to the others? Never mind. Just bring on the next. But in the meantime, listen to these tales told in Tulsa.