For more than a decade, Dennis Stadelman fronted one of the most prolific and prominent jambands in Florida, an incredible quartet called CopE. When that group retired last year at Great Outdoors Jam, it hardly meant that any of the group’s members were retiring.
Stadelman immediately plunged himself into a variety of projects and opportunities, including playing with Troy Youngblood and the Soulfish and performing as a duo with Youngblood as St Yo. He and brother Kenny had combined with Bobby Lee Rodgers, Thomas Damon, and Fil Pate, calling themselves Lemonade.
At Orange Blossom Jamboree, Stadelman sat in with Youngblood and the Soulfish and with Holey Miss Moley (and probably more). He was an Artist at Large at Great Outdoors Jam. He also has two groups working at present: Grape Soda, with Kenny Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) on bass and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris (Come Back Alice, Holey Miss Moley); and Sonic Stew, with Hristina Zhelyazkova on vocals, guitar, and ukulele, Daniel Navarro (Us Four, Serotonic) on bass, The Reverend Funky D on keyboards, and Dave Hamar on drums.
This Friday, July 22, marks the album release party for Stadelman’s Sonic Stew album Nine Lives at the Blueberry Patch (and a Viking party!) The Patch is the hippiest, trippiest place in the Bay area, so this promises to be a blast. But what about the album?
[NINE LIVES: 1 Perception, 2 Reality, 3 Never Know, 4 Time to Go, 5 Hazel Grass, 6 Clear, 7 Keep the Place, 8 Pieces, 9 Sometime]
Stadelman’s voice is immediately recognizable to fans, and new listeners will find it different and engaging. He plays guitar throughout, handles lead vocals, plays bass on all but two tracks, and even plays drums on a couple. Retirement? Fuggetaboutit.
The album opens with “Perception,” a mid tempo tune reminiscent of former compositions by Stadelman. The Rev. Funky D’s piano and Stadelman’s jangly guitar wrap around each other throughout the tune. Overtracked harmony vocals are effective (about obligation and perception), and there is a sweet guitar solo.
“Reality” is immediately heavier and funkier than “Perception,” with The Rev. Funky D’s Hammond B3 dripping over everything. Double-tracked guitars work really well.
On those first two songs and on “Never Know,” Stadelman plays bass and guitar, Dave Hamar on drums. Hristina Zhelyazkova enters the mix here, singing and playing guitar. For this tune, Stadelman also whips out the banjo and invites Applebutter Express vocalist Shannon Biss to join him in harmony. Stadelman’ bass thump here is perfect.
Kenny Harvey plays bass with Stadelman at the drum kit on “Time to Go.” The guitar in the intro sounds like it’s been filtered through a Leslie cabinet, and Stadelman delivers a tremendous solo. Funky D’s organ and Hamar’s crash cymbals are very effective.
“Hazel Grass” is a thing apart, and there could be an entire album like this. Two Applebutter Express gents join in: Kyle Biss on ukelele, Joe Trivette on violin. Fil Pate (mandolin) and Bryant Johnson (guitar) join in the fun, and Stadelman plays acoustic guitar, slide and bass (sounds like an upright!). This is a straight-up dawg-grass, newgrass romp, pure joy (a fine tribute to Tony Rice and Dave Grisman). Johnson solos on this tune.
The theme of “Clear” is “Everything heals in time.” Acoustic guitar introduces it, with a great train-like drum beat that propels the tune down the tracks. “Time and time again I see the power of the mind.”
“Keep the Place” and “Clear” again have Stadelman and Hamar as the rhythm section, along with Funky D’s magical acoustic piano. The uptempo rocker highlights another gorgeous guitar solo: “I’ll keep the place for you.”
“We can see the pieces fit together straight;
Happens every time we play,
Then your song? takes me away.”
Zhelyazkova’s ukulele sounds great after an acoustic guitar intro on “Pieces Fit.” Stadelman’s acoustic slide guitar here is sublime.
“Sometime” launches with funky acoustic guitar. Stadelman also plays bass and guitar. The acoustic picking is a highlight, as are the harmony vocals.
“Keep your feet on the ground
And head held high.
Appreciate the talk, my friend.
Let’s do it again sometime.”
So there you have it, nine new tracks from Dennis Stadelman, nine more lives to tack on to his already-excellent musical resume. Repeated listens reveal layer upon layer on this great album.
Retirement? As if…