It has been so long since I encountered a new, ‘real country’ album that, at first, I mistook the Waymores’ Stone Sessions as one. Based on the opening cut, “Heart of Stone,” that is what I thought Stone Sessions would be. A taking-turns male/female duet, a bunch of pedal steel, and well, an encounter of missed opportunity and differing viewpoints: one could be forgiven for making the mistake.
Listen a bit more, and the album leaves the ‘straight ahead’ country world for something closer to The Knitters, if Dallas Wayne or Dale Watson were fronting Dave Alvin, John Doe, & crew, with Kira Annalise handling the Exene components. And it is very well done and entirely enjoyable. Full-fledged Americana, I suppose, far enough off the beaten track to avoid painful modern clichés while embracing revered musical notes and references.
For the most part, Kira Annalise and Willie Heath Neal alternate on the songs’ lead spots with the other joining on choruses or alternating verses. It is a very effective formula across most of this rather brief recording, just over 28 minutes—which isn’t far off what country albums ran in a previous time. Their voices work well together. From the Atlanta area, the couple have been making music together for more than a decade, and Stone Sessions is their first full-fledged album following an EP.
The spritely “Even When” is a darned fine self-written song, as is “Do Right Here” and especially the brutally honest “Bat Shit Crazy.” “Road Worn,” Anders Thomson’s “I Don’t Like the Liquor,” and “Caught,” like the other songs mentioned would each work within my roots radio program, should any station ever lose their minds and turn the mic in my direction. And who shows up playing guitar on “Caught?” The previously mentioned Dale Watson who also wrote the song.
Fully stewed in the honky tonk sounds of the last fifty years, Stone Sessions, so named one presumes for co-producer Steve Stone, is near ideal—the kinda album one would have played continually in the cassette deck thirty years ago.
The only track that doesn’t work is the ending filler “Ode to the Animals” which should have been left as the failed studio outtake that is likely amusing only to the participants.
Nine songs, 26 or so minutes. Stone Sessions is a concise and welcome slice of countrified Americana, the type of music that once—long ago—had half a chance at country radio. Very impressive.