Following their 2008 release Just Another Day, StoneBaby decided to switch things up with their latest EP Illuminated. Their new set of seven songs resulted in stripping away the layers to showcase a new side to the band.
“We consciously tried to simplify things, to get to the heart of the songs, to be as straightforward as possible,” singer Scott Philipp said. “We didn’t want to overdo it – we kept it true to what we do live. This is StoneBaby, plain and simple.”
A fitting start to the EP, “Not Right Now” kicks things off with plenty of energy and catchy guitar licks. The combination of Scott Philipp on guitar and vocals alongside Tony Schiavo on drums blends well throughout the nearly three-minute track and it comes as no surprise that the two friends have been making music together for 25 years.
“Everybody wants to be a star/ Doesn’t really matter who you are,” Philipp sings. Possibly talking of himself, he sings “But it’s not right now.”
Next track, “It’s Always You” has a harder sound with gritty electric guitar and heavy percussion accompaniment. Philipp’s powerful vocals and guitar playing grabs the listener’s attention at the song’s start while Schiavo’s percussion parts electrify.
Each track on the EP showcases a new side to the band. While “It’s Always You” embodies a heavier vibe “Good Times” introduces StoneBaby’s more sensitive side. The radio friendly ballad features Philipp’s soaring vocals and it’s easy to envision a venue filled with fans singing back the words. Spot-on guitar and percussion further add to the catchy track.
Rock & roll is at the forefront of “I Need A Little.” Transporting the listener to a period when the Beatles ruled the Earth, gritty electric guitar and ear-grabbing percussion are featured throughout this track. “I can’t have the things I want/And I can’t want the things I need,” Philipp sings. A solid instrumental breakdown at the end of the song keeps the listener engaged while Philipp’s varied vocals impress. Alternating from a belt to a whisper, “I Need A Little” stands out.
“Creek Road” follows suit and resembles the 50s era of rock & roll with wavering guitar parts and a sing-along chorus while “Reach for the Sky” features a slight country roots vibe. Schiavo’s impressive percussion and Philipp’s passionate, powerhouse singing style continue to strike a chord. Meanwhile, Philipp’s questioning lyrics make it easy for the listener to relate.
StoneBaby close Illuminated with a unique cover of Journey’s “Send Her My Love.” Soulful saxophone features provided by Jay Davidson add to the band’s own spin on the classic ballad. Additionally, impressive saxophone trills and added percussion and electric guitar give StoneBaby’s version a more immediate feel.
Overall a solid release, StoneBaby’s idea of creating more of a stripped down feel on Illuminated had them accomplish their goal. Each of the seven songs is straightforward and easy to decipher and the band manages to get to the heart of the song. Whether the band is questioning their path in life or reinterpreting Journey’s song, the emotion is always there and accessible to the listener.
Review by: Annie Reuter
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)