Kelley Stoltz

Below the Branches

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Kelley Stoltz seems to have a bottomless well of great songs. Catchy tunes and great vocal melodies seem to come as easily as breathing for this guy. His third full-length album is basically more of the same -- solid D.I.Y. rock & roll -- but there are a few new wrinkles. As pointed to by the EP The Sun Comes Through, piano plays a larger role than on the earlier albums (adding something close to a music hall feel on some tracks), and he's using more falsetto vocals and even a bit of tamboura on a couple tracks. He gets a little more help from his friends than on previous outings, but it's still basically a one-man show. "Wave Goodbye" is a piano-driven rocker that kicks the album off before moving into more Nick Drake territory with "Little Lords." The gleeful "Birdies Singing" has great chugging bass, slide guitars, handclaps, and glockenspiel. "Ever Thought of Coming Back?" is a new sound for Stoltz, channelling the Beach Boys in a teenage symphony to Jesus Christ. "Words" is shaped by piano and acoustic guitar, and has a vocal that almost could have been lifted from Pink Floyd's "Fearless." Stoltz's production sense is unerring, adding just the right touches without cluttering the sound, and the songs have the loose feel of a band performance. There's nothing really new or earth-shattering about this album, but that's not a prerequisite for great rock & roll as Kelley Stoltz demonstrates once again.

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