Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart – Dedication (2012)

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart

His and Hers Folk songs from Americana’s #1 Couple

I’ll hold my hands up and say straight away that I’m a big fan of Stacey Earle but have always been under whelmed by Mark Stuarts’ contributions on the vocal front.

On earlier albums Stacey’s ‘little girl lost’ voice was probably an acquired taste but on Dedication she appears to have developed a richer, slightly deeper voice that suits her songs while still retaining the vulnerability that came across in previous years.

The album opens with Mark taking the lead on Dedicationand Stacey providing harmonies. It’s a good enough song about a man querying his commitment to their relationship and repeated listening has got me to the stage where I can now see what others see in his slightly ragged voice.

On the second track, Stacey takes the lead on the gentle piano fronted Here Comes the Pain and it takes the listener off into another world as she confides her fears and feelings about being a wife and a mother in typical Stacey Earle fashion and gave me goosebumps before it merged into Here Comes The Rain, which is on a similar theme but not quite as hard hitting.

I was taken aback by Mark Stuart’s Little Rock as it is easily his best ever song and conjures up Ansel Adams like imagery as it chugs along like a Steam Train traveling through the hills of the Mid-West. The jaunty Workin’ on It too is quite good too but all of his tracks seem out of place when placed next to Stacey’s.

Stacey shows a new side to her talents as slides into the guise of a Torch singer with the greatest of ease; on I’ve Been Wrong, I’ve Been Right. I like the song a whole lot and would love to hear a whole album in the same vein.

The highlight of DEDICATION and probably the only track that would make it onto a Stacey Earle Greatest Hits album is The Flag. Even in these days of political correctness and multi-culturalism this is a song only an American woman could write. Stacey takes on the role of a Mother thinking out loud about her memories of her now grown up son; with recollections of his first baseball hit, picking dandelions, borrowing the car and the child running faster than lightening until her voice drops as he enlists ‘to be someone’ then get sent overseas to fight for his Country.

It’s a timeless song and territory that Stacey has covered before, but never when the Mother only has a neatly folded flag to hold on as ‘only the stars shine bright’.

As you’d expect if you’ve heard Stacey Earle and/or Mark Stuart before; there’s not a bad track here but I was expecting and wanting an album with Stacey on lead vocals and Mark directing operations and harmonizing (which he’s brilliant at) not 12 tracks made up of Stacey only taking the lead on 6 tracks, Mark on 5 and a guitar instrumental that is presumably Mark again.

This review first appeared in Maverick Magazine

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