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 afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on an eclectic singer and songwriter, Stone White. Inspired heavily by blues, dance, funk, rock, and pop, the performer has a particularly unique sound unto himself that has garnered him attention and accolades in the indie community. Frankly, there may not be any other artist in the scene that sounds quite like Stone White, which is an extreme rarity. His new album, ‘Groove Thang,’ is a fascinating endeavor worth delving into. Thus, let’s do so!
The titular track of ‘Groove Thang’ opens White’s new collection of songs, and there’s a ridiculous amount of sonic influence jam packed into the track. White has a country-esque, Nashville twang to his lead vocals. There’s a definitive funk influence in the instrumental performance, however, and that’s accented further by bouts of rock and roll style electric guitar riffing. On paper, ‘Groove Thang’ shouldn’t work as a song. The elements shouldn’t click together the way they do. Goodness, though - they do, and it’s infectious on a whole new level.
White offers something absolutely remarkable and unexpected on ‘Get on Down’ as well: a white guy performing funk with the fervor of a 1970s James Brown. ‘Get on Down’ feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Get Up Offa That Thing,’ which of course, is a very high compliment. The explosive brass sections, bombastic lead vocals, and vocal screeching from White culminate into a sound so unlike anything else in the indie scene right now.
‘Higher Ground’ is equally fascinating, I’d argue, because it’s more rooted in country than its predecessors. There’s a southern country twang to both White’s lyricism and his vocal delivery. At the same time, however, ‘Higher Ground’ has hooks that one could easily picture Marvin Gaye or the Staple Singers singing. The backing vocals are just stunning, too, and ‘Higher Ground’ is a song that’s very much needed in the turbulent climate of the United States right now.
White continues his tour de force on ‘Feel the Fire,’ one of his most dynamic vocal showcases. It’s one of the albums rockiest tracks, offering an aggressive, jagged sound that balances out the feel-good nature of songs like ‘Higher Ground.’ The songwriter continues to jump about genres, though, and ‘Everybody Is Loved by Somebody’ is essentially a dance song with retro organ sections and a gospel-esque introduction. The atmospheric synths and sparse piano in between the dance sections are terrific as well.
Of all the album’s songs, ‘By My Side’ is the track that’ll get every listener instinctively reaching for a lighter and/or their camera’s flashlight to hold in the air. It’s an anthem of togetherness, something that could be applicable to a significant other, a family member, a friend, or anyone else. Bluntly, the song might very well put a tear in your eye, especially as the spine-tingling electric guitar tears in and out of the landscape backed by what sounds like a full chorus… simply beautiful.
‘Face of a Nation’ is the closest White gets to being political on ‘Groove Thang.’ He sings about a shining nation from sea to sea that has faces black and white, all in a big mixing pot from all around the world. It’s a nice feel-good interpretation of American culture, albeit one that’s certainly contended by some of the more xenophobic aspects of the country’s society today.
To an extent, ‘Angels Don’t Let Me Down’ sounds more like a U2 song than anything else. It’s an anthemic track doused in reverberated electric guitar, but one that feels more void of direction and vision than its predecessors. It likely could have been left on the cutting room floor and no dramatic shift would have occurred in the sequencing of the album. The high-intensity ‘Where Will You Stand’ picks up that slack, however, digging deep into some Revelations-esque imagery about standing between good and evil at the end of the world.
The final tracks of ‘Groove Thang’ are especially good, offering two memorable moments in the closing. ‘Her Sweet Memory’ is haunting piece of songwriting - a melancholy, bluesy track that looks back on a relationship gone by. ‘Lonely People’ then follows, another somber track, one that’s somewhat reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s ‘Too Many People.’ (At least, lyrically and thematically.) It's a perfect finale.
‘Groove Thang’ is undoubtedly one of the best independent records thus far in 2017. It defies any conventional genre classification, exploring dance, rock, funk, blues, pop, country, and singer songwriter musings all in one surprisingly cohesive package. White summons the spirits of his influences in beautiful ways, never sounding derivative, but rather, respectful of his musical lineage and his desire to build upon it. Connect with him below, and don’t miss ‘Groove Thang.’