The Players: Chris Bartlett: lead vocals, Joel Williams: guitar, Clay Houle:guitar, Marshall Coats: bass and backup vocals, Tanner Hendon: drums.
Material: As overused as the term may seem, "Classic Rock" might just be the best way to describe Soul Stash's music. Not covers, but new classic rock... just like the original stuff was. With influences going back to mid-term Iron Butterfly (Metamorphosis era), toss in a little Van Halen, and culminate with Pearl Jam... and, perhaps, just a soupçon of Blues Traveller thrown in for spice. From the riff heavy "Who Am I," to the Southern-Funk ballad, "When Will the Time," Chris Bartlett's husky baritone endows the music with a soulfulness which justifies the band's unusual moniker. So, too, do the lyrics of "Hold Me Under," which Bartlett spits out in a rap-like firestorm: "...when opportunity knocks you better be ready to go, you gotta believe you're gonna find a place to stash your soul."
Musicianship: Apparently Tanner Hendon is only sixteen years old, but his drumming is kicking it with big boys. It also locks in nicely with Marshall Coats' precise, funk inspired bass, as the platform behind the two dueling guitarists.
Clay Houle comes off as the computer nerd of the band while Joel Williams' blonde locks are sure to have the girls cooing in their pews – but the two guitarists present a balanced front line, their styles complementing each other just as their images do. Williams is laid back, soulful and full of syncopation, while Houle, bespectacled Harry Potter style, is all business and doesn't miss a beat. Meanwhile, center stage, Chris Bartlett's great voice is simply a sonic manifestation of his equally great physical presence.
Performance: Wow! It might take a minute or two to catch your breath after a Soul Stash gig. The energy was non-stop! The playing was tight and well rehearsed. Not so, the sound mixing – when will sound engineers realize that making it louder doesn't necessarily mean making it heavier? Unfortunately some of the warm tones that Bartlett produces with his voice didn't come through as well as they do on record (he needed to be relatively higher in the mix). Maybe that is why his front man presence felt somewhat subdued last night. Soul Stash is, admittedly, an ensemble, rather than a backup band for him, but still, Chris may not be making the most of his naturally powerful presence, especially during the instrumental sections. The old bugaboo persists – what's a singer to do with his hands during the guitar solo? Ask Joe Cocker.
Nonetheless, aside from these few small details, Mr. Bartlett clearly has what it takes to be a remarkable front man for this remarkable new band.
Summary: Soul Stash is the kind of band which harkens back to a past that many people nowadays yearn for. Good songs, with good melodies, but also heavy duty riffs winding their ways through the intricate arrangements. If you like high-energy rock, which isn't too repetitious, and has an attitude that forces you to get up on the floor and do windmills on your air guitar... go see this band!
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