Stonebelly - 'Perspectives & Perceptions'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this Independent Spotlight review, I’ll be taking a deep look at Stonebelly, a power trio from Lincoln, Nebraska, and their new record, ‘Perspectives & Perceptions.’ The band plays a self-described “original blend of rock, blues, reggae, and psychedelic music.” That’s a pretty broad musical palette to lay claim to: does Stonebelly deliver?

Before delving into ‘Perspectives & Perceptions,’ it makes sense to take a look at Stonebelly as an act to give context to the music. The band consists of Mike Hollon on guitar, lead vocals, and songwriting, Kevin Korus on drums and backup vocals, and Scott Dworak on bass. Their record also features Brian Morrow on tenor sax and Tim Aukerman on trombone.

The band describes their effort of combining so many musical genres as one endeavoring to “form a sound that is rootsy, rockin’ and funky.” ‘Perspectives & Perceptions’ isn’t Stonebelly’s first record out of the gate, however, with ‘Free Spirit : Lost Soul’ acting as the precursor, a record that was dropped in 2012. This musical sponge of a band has made it their mission to make a statement with this new record, though, and it’s an intriguing ten song journey.

‘Perspectives & Perceptions’ kicks off with ‘Rising,’ a groovy track with very vibrant instrumentation. It’s got a bit of an island-vibe to it, but it works well. Their production is incredibly sound, which is always refreshing from an independent act. It’s mixed very well, each instrument plays out beautifully in the overall soundscape and nothing is overpowering or overproduced. The musical prowess of the band is also quite impressive; ‘Rising’ hits you with awesome vocals, sweeping guitar riffs, and a superb drum presence.

‘Arrow’ continues the colorful style of music that dances between reggae and psychedelic. The lead guitar on this track is particularly intriguing, as are the soulful lyrics. The sound feels a bit like something of a mix between Santana and Los Lonely Boys. The distorted, suave guitar solos act as vessels of pure rock in these songs, crafting a magnificent sound.

‘Right Back To Where We Start’ boasts a mean banter between the lead guitar, bass, drums, and brass section. The band is a well oiled machine; they’re extremely tight. ‘Right Back’ has a bit of a New Orleans jazzy vibe to it, as if you’d be passing Preservation Hall and it would be emanating from the rafters.

‘Back In Time’ draws listeners in with a beautifully performed acoustic guitar. It’s a softer reprieve from the previous tracks, but that allows the album to flow well. There’s a very classic rock sound to this number; it’s like a top-notch Eagles track. ‘Back In Time’ may be my favorite track of the ten. Making an analogy to the Eagles once again, the song would most be at home side by side with ‘Take it Easy’ on a long roadtrip.

‘Devil’s Mind’ pulls the psychedelic influence into the arena that Stonebelly promised. It’s an epic track, cascading with effect-driven guitars and enough distortion to go around. ‘New Revolution’ is a stark contrast to the previous track, aligning more similarly with ‘Back In Time.’ Lyrically, this song may be the highlight of ‘Perspectives & Perceptions,’ making a bold statement as a protest song focused on the “all-mighty dollar” and its corruption. In the nature of Stonebelly’s genre-sweeping style, ‘No Escape’ completes a trifecta of traversal music with a stellar jazz influence on the tenor sax.

‘DarkHeart’ is home to one of the most compelling electric guitar solo sections on the record. The song itself drones on a bit, and it may be the weaker of the songs in relation to the other nine, but that solo is something soulful and special. ‘This Time?’ is an abundantly tasteful, incredibly appealing jam. It’s infectious and rides the line between wonderful musicianship and pop-friendly, fun hooks.

‘Perspectives & Perceptions’ departs with ‘The Groove,’ a song that true to its name, grooves for nearly seven minutes. It’s basically an instrumental jam session that closes out the record in a similar way that George Harrison finalized ‘All Things Must Pass.’ It’s sweet, though, and a perfect end to an album of overflowing musical creativity.

Wow. Stonebelly surprised me. They made a lot of promises at the beginning of the record that I was banking they wouldn’t keep. How does a band flirt with such a broad influence and get away with it? Stonebelly does, and they do it in spades. This record is remarkably creative, beautifully executed, and has enough musical goodness jammed into it to appease anyone who digs any of the genres they pull from. They’re like a musical time capsule of awesome, and yes, you can quote me on that.

Connect With Stonebelly: