The Parlor North Loop, 10/14
I have an epic new Demo Sweat almost ready to enter the world, but I wanted to take a moment to dedicate a full entry to local guitarist/songwriter Andrew Stone, who I saw almost a week ago at the Parlor. I much prefer bands to solo guitar slingers, but this fellow is a rare case. Short of the brilliant Nathan Payne I have yet to see a one-man show in Austin as compelling.
Many of the musicians I go to see don't move at all when they are performing. That's no fun. More self-aware ones make a point of observing the audience and reacting, deliberately moving around even though it's not quite natural because that's what crowds expect. But the best kind of musical performers move without self-consciousness. They close their eyes, shake their hair, and jump about on stage because they have to do so, because there's something inside of them they can hardly control and they can't imagine playing music without stalking the floor like a savage beast. Andrew Stone plays like that. He has a magnetism that doesn't translate to MySpace clips, and for that reason alone I suggest you go see him live. He also plays guitar like a madman and howls off of the mic like wolves are after him. It's hard to take your eyes off of the man while he's playing, and that sets him apart.
I first encountered Stone in a column a couple weeks ago, and what I had to say about his recordings still holds up... as talented as he is on guitar, he could stand to work on his vocal technique and his songwriting. He's a very capable player and I would like to see the same sophistication his guitar parts evidence reflected in his arrangements and his vocal melodies. His dynamics playing live really leap out as compared to the demos; a lot of the finer elements of his guitar tone get lost in translation. He sounded great playing a new Telecaster at the Parlor, with the blues elements of his picking and chord choices contrasting, very originally, with a sort of modern rock amplifier tone. By varying his attack on guitar and picking his spots to stomp a tambourine on the floor, he brought a very full and varied sound to the stereotypical singer/guitarist setup.
Like all great guitarists, I think he would benefit from the rhythmic discipline a solid drum and bass backing would lend -- his performances tend to speed up and slow down as the excitement level rises and falls. But, wow, is it fun to just to watch him play -- one minute he's bombing slide runs like Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin III and then he's doing a chiming Minus the Bear finger-tapping figure. His songs could have some more shape and less repetition to them but it's hard to knock them when the individual parts sound so good. His vocals are passionate, and he has good natural talent, but he does need to practice hitting everything in key -- his guitar chops outstrip his singing skills at this point.
There are a lot of blues-inspired songwriters in Austin who aren't worth your time. Some may be further along the path to becoming polished songwriters than Andrew Stone, but none that I know of have the assets he does -- an arrestingly original, signature instrumental approach and a clear passion and confidence when performing. His songs sound sharper now than they do when he recorded them, and surrounded as he is in Austin by so much talented competition he can only stand to improve. Get into this elevator on the ground floor, music fans.