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
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.
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