One of the best books I ever read about songwriting was written by Paul Zollo. The book is called Songwriters on Songwriting. I have the expanded edition and it's published by Da Capo. In the book, Paul interviews all the greatest living songwriters of the last 75 years. And he asks really good questions, as Paul is not slouch as a songwriter himself, so he knows what would be of interest to us. So I've always had a great deal of regard for Paul and last week when this review showed up, written by Paul, I couldn't be more thrilled. Please read on:
A Magazine of the Arts
By PAUL ZOLLO
James Lee Stanley, Backstage at the Resurrection. [Beachwood Recordings].Inspirational, inventive and inviting. A great achievement. Just when we think James Lee Stanley won’t ever record a new album as great as one of his past classics, he comes along with something like this, a collection of poignant, charged songs by one of our greatest singer-songwriters.
He’s long been a beloved presence on the L.A. folk music scene as well as throughout America with good reason: not only is he a gifted and original songwriter, he’s also one of the best singers and guitarists around, with a voice that just takes flight in songs. Produced and arranged by Stanley, the tracks are rich with the love of great musicians with whom he’s performed over the years, including Chicago harmonica legend Corky Siegel, trombone and bass by the great Chad Watson, Bill Kole on banjo, John Batdorf joining Stanley on acoustic guitar. But it’s the harmony vocals throughout that raises this one far above the level of most current projects. The man knows harmonies – and also knows lots of the best harmony singers around, who are enlisted to grace these songs, including Dan Navarro, Lisa Turner, Severin Browne and Joe Rathburn. “Backhand Man” sounds like a new standard, cushioned by rich, often complex harmonies and sparkling acoustic guitars. It sounds like one of the best Byrds songs you’ve never heard. “I Can’t Cry Anymore” is an infectious testament to persistence and strength, the kind of song we need now more than ever. Throughout Stanley cannily merges jazzy harmonies and chords with great soul, as on the glorious “Don’t Wait Too Long,” a stunner with the kind of close jazzy harmonies CSN can only do cause of David Crosby’s vocal genius, and Stanley shares this dynamic. Humans love to hear harmonies, and when voices fold into harmonies this richly conveyed, it introduces a wonderful depth – a whole other dimension – to a song. Backstage at the Resurrection is yet another chapter in a remarkable career; one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time by a guy who has been making great albums for a good while.