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Stephen Kellogg And The Sixers
The Bear
Vanguard Records
www.SK6ERS.com


Once in a while an album comes along - hopefully - that transcends the basic listener/artist relationship. A collection of songs that worms its way into the heart and mind of the listener and becomes a part of their daily lexicon, burrowing into the subconscious in a way that is both tangible and permanent. The Bear by Stephen Kellogg And The Sixers is just such an album. The songs on The Bear have a distinctly timeless quality about them, sounding like they are from a musical era past, yet with a very modern grip. Moving from the more straightforward alt. country sound of their previous records, the band has incorporated a much more varied musical vocabulary on their latest, introducing horns and rhythms on which they've never before touched.

Opening track "The Bear" has worked its way inexplicably into my daily vocalizations as I've become quick to remind folks, especially in these tough economic times, "sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you." The song has a wonderful stomp that drives the point home just that much more poignantly. "A (With Love)" has the same sharp Arizonan country sound as The Refreshments' first record, and a story of love and life that points at the interaction of the worst of people and how that can sometimes turn into a redeeming thing. "Shady Esperanto And The Young Hearts" is a clear pick for radio single and has been picked up around the country because of its wonderful melodies and infectious rhythms that stick eternally to the walls of the psyche. The song would fit just as well at AAA radio as it would at college stations and independent radio transmitters. The Sixers run through a set of songs that cover a lot of musical ground, from the slow, country roll of "Dying Wish Of A Teenager" to the bluesy rock groove of "My Old Man". Stephen Kellogg taps into life's most basic truths on the acoustic-based self-expository "Satisfied Man" and tells a rambling story of love and loss and pain on "Mabeline".

The Bear is not just a great album; it is a good, fast friend. It's hard to speak of it, actually, as it has become a permanent fixture in my musical library. I've heard these songs so many times that they dwell in my mind and appear at the times when I need to be reminded of life's most basic and important of lessons. The songs cover much musical ground, all of it easy to listen to while having a tremendous amount of personality and depth, but the really amazing part is that in just a few years Kellogg has built himself into an amazing songwriter, plumbing the deeps for the answers to the questions of humanity and its basic needs… whether he means to or not.

-Embo Blake

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