Review: Chris Stamey Remains a Preeminent Power Pop Icon

Chris Stamey/…The Great Escape/Schoolkids/Car Records
Four Out Of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Chris Stamey could be considered something of an icon in power pop circles. And for good reason. The role he played in the progression of that genre has been nothing less than absolutely indelible, from his early roles in Alex Chilton’s backing band and the pioneering part in played in the seminal power pop band Sneakers through to the founding of the dBs, one of the most influential outfits in all of American music.

That said, Stamey’s never achieved household name status, but the music he’s made both on his own and in the company of any number of like-minded musicians (longtime partner Peter Holsapple in particular), remains as alluring and engaging as ever, sounds well suited to a timeless template that never goes out of style.

Not surprisingly then, …The Great Escape, Stamey’s first new album in three years, is an excellent example of a sound served up on a vibrant and expressive musical palette. It bears an air of familiarity that could easily lead one to believe these songs have been lingering in the ether forever. That’s evident even at the outset, given that “The Great Escape,” “Realize,” and “She Might Look My Way” establish a tack that remains consistently contagious throughout. In fact, Stamey never relinquishes that hypnotic hold at any point in the proceedings.  The mid-tempo romp “Greensboro Days,” the perky pacing of “I Will Try” and the wistful waltz “Here’s How We Start Again” all attest to Stamey’s ability to effortlessly entice his listeners with a pure melodic presence.

Naturally, Stamey’s North Carolina compatriots lend a hand as well, with Holsapple, Don Dixon, Will Rugby, Mitch Easter, Caitlin Cary, Terry Manning, and Eric Heywood among the many musicians contributing to this project. The results come across in rich, stirring arrangements that rings and resonate in classic style. Certain songs—“Back in New York,” “The Sweetheart of the Video” and “(A Prisoner of This) Hopeless Love”—sound entirely radio-ready courtesy of their effervescent, ear-catching melodies, but the most telling entry of all is easily “The Only and Only (Van Dyke Parks),” a tribute to the song’s namesake, the prescient musical maestro whose work with the Beach Boys altered the course of popular music forever.  

The catchy chorus says it all, but credit Stamey for tapping into a template that brings the past into the present with the same remarkable results.

Photo courtesy Howlin’ Wuelf Media

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