Our Back Pages

Peter Holsapple / Chris Stamey

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Our Back Pages Review

by Mark Deming

Chris Stamey left the dB's in 1982, but fate and the desire to maintain a successful collaboration keeps bringing him back to the orbit of his former bandmate Peter Holsapple. The two have been friends since grade school, and in 1991, they reunited to cut a semi-acoustic album, Mavericks, that was more subtle and less angular than the dB's best-known work but still documented their musical chemistry and their gift for harmonies. They occasionally crossed creative paths again after that, and issued a second album as a duo in 2009, Here and Now. A full-fledged dB's reunion record, Falling Off the Sky, came out in 2012, and nine years on, we have another Holsapple & Stamey set, 2021's Our Back Pages. As the title suggests, this time Holsapple & Stamey are taking a second look at some songs they recorded in the past, mostly from the first two dB's albums, but the spare, evocative, primarily acoustic arrangements give the tunes a different feel, and the passage of time seems to have allowed the songwriters to find new wrinkles in the tunes. (There is one previously unheard selection, "Depth of Field," which was written for the 1982 dB's LP Repercussion but never made the cut, though it sounds lovely in this version. There's also one track, "Nothing is Wrong," taken from a live performance by the dB's.) Here, "Molly Says" sounds more rueful than grumpy, "Happenstance" takes on the voice of someone who knows just how much they want to hurt someone, "Big Brown Eyes" is romantic in a deeper and more mature way, and "Picture Sleeve" is a sweetly rueful look back at how a younger man falls in love. It's not uncommon for artists to re-record older material because they've run out of ideas, but in Our Back Pages, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey show they have plenty of great ideas as they rework these older tunes. From a distance of a few decades, they know more about themselves and the characters they wrote about, and that wisdom, coupled with some stellar harmonies, makes Our Back Pages a delight even if you're not well versed on the original versions of the songs.

blue highlight denotes track pick