The sophomore long-player and Anti debut from Brooklyn-based, Florida-bred singer/songwriter Christopher Paul Stelling, Labor Against Waste draws from a wide spectrum of American roots music, from backwoods gospel and blues to bucolic folk and road trip-ready country. A dazzling finger-picker to boot, Stelling cites influences such as John Fahey, Van Morrison, Mississippi John Hurt, Waylon Jennings, Bob Dylan, Roscoe Holcomb, and Skip James, but there's a real Van Morrison/Damien Rice vibe at work here as well, especially on some of the album's less ardent cuts like "Scarecrow" and "Too Far North." Stelling sings and writes with the conviction and sincerity of a road-tested troubadour, and he's at his best and most fevered when the pace goes from a trot to a full-on gallop. There's a nervy energy that runs through the album that belies its more or less spartan arrangements and string band setup. Despite keeping the proceedings completely acoustic, Stelling manages to achieve rock-level decibels on stand-out cuts like the bustling "Hard Work," the rowdy, Led Zeppelin III-inspired "Horse," and the spirited opener "Warm Enemy," the latter of which features enough six-string fireworks to, at the very least, earn the still young virtuoso a temporary seat at the table with the likes of Fahey and company.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger