American Road (2005) Michael Stanley

American Road (2005)

Michael Stanley

Line Level Music LL202

I was a little leery of Michael Stanley’s latest effort American Road. Nothing to be real concerned about, I already knew it would be another in the long line of quality solo works he has done since the demise of MSB in the mid 80’s. My concern was how it was going to stack up against his last release The Ground (2003), which is an incredible piece of work, maybe the best he has ever done.

But after listening to American Road for a dozen or so times I realize my worries were unfounded. Time will tell how it stacks up against The Ground and all the other albums of his thirty some year career, but American Road, at its very worst, is another solid Michael Stanley album.

In his last few releases Michael Stanley has been writing songs from a definite mid life point of view, guitar driven rock and roll with intelligent lyrics with a touch of tongue in cheek humor. Throw in some organ, horns, and sexy background singers and it’s good stuff. Backed by members of his performing band The Resonators, who have been together long enough, and have done enough shows together, that they have grown into the best band Stanley has ever had behind him (a pretty good compliment when you consider the quality of some of the different versions of MSB back in the 70’s and 80’s).

The title track is a roots rocker with allusions in it ranging from Jack Kerouac to the Las Vegas strip. An old girlfriend is revisited in “The Times We Had.” Vegas cool is revisited in the Sinatra ode “What Would Frank Do,” and nights in a strip bar are given their due in “Backing Up Sally G.” The two most popish tunes, “Round and Round” and a cover of the Phil Spector standard “Be My Baby,” go all the way back in sound to the late 60’s and Stanley’s first garage bands.

The album closes with two of the best Michael Stanley ballads in a long time, written with the perspective of an aging but still has it music warrior enjoying each day with the wisdom the years have brought him. “Like Father Like Son” and “Home Tonight” are reasons enough to check out this album.