Title - Late Style
Artist - Wesley Stace
For those unaware, with his brand new album Late Style, Wesley Stace, the artist formerly known as John Wesley Harding, has done things differently.
Having begun to put some new lyrics to music, in his usual way, singing to an acoustic guitar, he realized he was coming up with old solutions, reinventing a wheel he had already made, with chord progressions and melodies that worked as folk and pop songs but were not satisfying his desire for something fresh - something he’d be excited to listen to in 2021.
So, he turned to David Nagler, the musical director of his portable variety show, the Cabinet of Wonders, to be the Rodgers to his Hart, the Elton to his Bernie, the Bachrach to his David.
Ergo, Late Style is influenced by artists like Mose Allison, Carla Bley, Nina Simone, Bob Dorough, Steely Dan, Harry Nilsson, Gil Scott-Heron, The Bee Gees, Tom Lehrer, The Carpenters, and even The Partridge Family, without imitating them, so the songs feel modern and “modern” all at once.
You can call them uneasy easy listening—smooth, but oddly shaped, with surprising harmonic changes and rhythmic angles. They have the paradoxical flavor of having been written to be hits without any thought of having hits at all.
1. WHERE THE BANDS ARE
2. EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME
3. YOUR BRIGHT FUTURE
4. HEY! DIRECTOR
5. COME BACK YESTERDAY
6. ALL THE YOUS
7. THE CALIFORNIA FIX
8. WELL DONE EVERYONE
9. THE IMPOSSIBLE SHE
10. DO NOTHING IF YOU CAN
11. JUST SAYIN’
12. HOW YOU ALL WORK ME
Opening on the rhythmic one-two step of WHERE THE BANDS ARE and the finger-snapping melodies of EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME, Wesley backs those up seamlessly with the lushly layered YOUR BRIGHT FUTURE, the gently upbeat and perky HEY! DIRECTOR, and then we get the ’70s-imbibed hipsway of COME BACK YESTERDAY and the late night, underground jazz café vibe of of one of my own personal favorites, ALL THE YOUS.
Next up is the free flowing majesty of THE CALIFORNIA FIX and the drum-led WELL DONE EVERYONE, which are in turn followed by the translucent orchestrations of THE IMPOSSIBLE SHE, the relaxed ambiance of DO NOTHING IF YOU CAN, with the album rounding out with the Hammond-backed JUST SAYIN’, closing on the easygoing, summers breeze of HOW YOU ALL WORK ME.
Though Wesley had originally imagined a record that “a phenomenally well-rehearsed combo might record in a club, perhaps even in front of an audience,” COVID had other plans.
But through the mysterious magic of modern technology, the recording came together out of Philadelphia, where Wesley lives; New York, where David built tracks from keyboards, acoustic guitars and virtual instruments; San Francisco, where Wes’s longtime friend and collaborator Chris von Sneidern (a solo artist in his own right and sometime member of the Flamin’ Groovies) added electric guitar, vocals, horns and the drums of Prairie Prince (The Tubes, Todd Rundgren, Jefferson Starship); and Chicago, where Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor of the Flat Five added harmonies.
As Barry Gifford (renowned poet, author of Wild At Heart, screenwriter of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and more) says in his liner notes: Late Style (available on CD and both standard and high resolution digital) is perfect for listening to on late night radio.
“It’s late, but we’ll get it done. Well done, everyone!”, adds Wesley, “Well Done Everyone.”
Official Purchase Link