Martin Stephenson

Incredible Shrinking Band

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The title is a wonderfully wry understatement, because the band has actually shrunk to just Stephenson, recording in his living room after moving to the Scottish Highlands -- the cost of the album was simply the cost of the tape (reputedly a little over three dollars), making it one of the least expensive records in existence. However, that's not reflected in the quality of the songs. His growing interest in American music (and fascination with Doc Watson) is reflected in the three versions of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" (one humorously appended "Take 379"). Stripped absolutely to the bone, the strength of Stephenson's writing shows through, and there are well-muscled frames to the material here, like "Windy and Warm" and the glorious "The Cinema of the Head." More than anything, he's blessed with the gift of melody. It's about as far from his old band, the Daintees, as he could go (and they were never a band of too many members), and while it won't move Stephenson out of the underground, it's doubtful he wants to return to any kind of major-label madness. On the basis of this, he doesn't need to, either.

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