Robert Stoner 2021
Californian dreamer gets down to earth to suffer and sympathize to the sound of a hypnotic melody.
The pandemic period might have had a profound effect on many people on multiple levels, and Robert Stoner knows this all too well, being an economist and sensing the turmoil in a personal setting too, yet 2020 gave the Berkley resident the chance to realize his dream of becoming a singer-songwriter and, having issued a few standalone pieces during the Covid era, finally release his first full-length album. It’s not a simple voice-and-strum record, though, and, despite an occasional nasal whine, it doesn’t follow a Dylan template while uncovering social sores even in family affairs, but there’s relatable depth is these numbers – to such an extent that “Year Of Pain” must soon severe its ties with a particular span of time. Still, these cuts are easy on the ear and poetic enough to be entertaining and enter both bar and bard-dom.
Which is why escaping the lyrical pull of “Just A Riverboat” – a snapshot of a part-time artist’s life caught in the web of acoustic guitar and pedal steel – would prove difficult, especially when Lily Stoner joins her dad on the chorus’ caress, and on the “Out Of Time” whose melody feels warm, whereas the less resigned “The Principle” offers a homespun philosophy without a trace of didacticism, before the intimacy of “Holy Grail” spreads its wings over the listener. And if “Head In The Sand” has a domestic air to it, this song also holds hints at several fables and a six-string lace that take Robert’s delivery off the ground, so the momentum’s decline in the album’s second half should not surprise anyone: fatigue and slowness always set in towards the evening.
Yet Stoner’s low tone in “Hear Their Voices” is enchanting, and the finale which the record’s title track brings on is possessed with a pop allure – a rare feat for a troubadour’s opus. Not for nothing Bob’s been one of America’s best-kept secrets, and his mature handling of regular matters seems well out of ordinary. Hopefully, with the year of pain crossing over into timelessness, this artist won’t stop being inspired to come up with new themes and tunes.