Alter Ego EP
Stacie Rose caught my attention a couple of years back with her powerhouse release, Shotgun Daisy. Since then she’s been a very busy girl. The result of that work is her latest double-trouble release, Alter Ego. Stacie shows her clever way of melding her musical styles with this two-disc exploration. The discs are called Raw Sugar and Means To An End, and has Rose splitting the musical atom and giving rock and pop fans one side before turning the other cheek to the dance mix community thru a bevy of featured producers including, Thomas Hutchings, Aaron Steinberg, John “Quixotic” Gunderson and David Barret.
Concerning the Raw Sugar disc Rose says, “I began getting requests for songs from different programmers and producers looking for tracks to rework and build soundscapes for. A sexy, electronic current started running through my life, and this little project emerged. Hearing these songs all pimped out with club beats, and shiny, fly grooves were thrilling…every week I would get something new in my inbox. The songs became like little care-packages that I would anticipate. The ‘Raw Sugar’ side of the Alter-Ego EP’s was born.”
To me, Stacie Rose is a songwriter and singer first, so this makes sense for her on several levels including publishing and TV and audio media outlets. My main focus here is on the Means To An End disc, which is just bursting with great compositional talent. Produced by Jeffery Allen, Means To An End fires on all six cylinders. Rose has the great fortune of possessing an immediately likeable voice that locks in tight writing savvy that sounds as delicious as white chocolate tastes. And in a business that turns a deaf ear on any artist that doesn’t reach the industry “Like” button in fifteen seconds she’s beat them to the punch every time with this project.
Title track on disc two, “Means To An End,” kicks off with Rose’s smooth pop sensibilities and phrasing. Reminding me of some strange crossbreed of The Bangles and The Breeders, Means To An End is commercially aimed arrow of success. Wrapping great lyrics around simple and effective verses and choruses, her voice rides the instrumentation, which sits dynamically well within the song. Theres so many guests on this disc, including James Mastro (The Bongos), that I’m not sure who’s playing guitar, but it’s good, steady stuff.
The absolute hit on the disc is “Alter Ego,” a ‘biggest bang for the buck’ pop song with huge crossover potential. I could picture this song on any of the new top country stations and could hear a number of Nashville artists covering this. The chorus is ultra strong, supported with background finesses courtesy of Tabitha Fair and New York Dolls member Steve Conte. Once again Rose uses her down home vocal charm to wrap you up in this fine, homespun gold.
Other notable songs include “Sunny,” another hooky, addictive pop gem where Rose demonstrates her master craftsman style while slaying it vocally. Her powerhouse, glissando smooth voice fuses with well thought out and simple playing and production savvy that makes this just a pleasure to listen to.
Enraptured is the darkest tune on the disc. Haunting pianos swirl endlessly into this Morcheeba meets Aerosmith vibe and breaks it down into beautiful, minor-keyed verses, dreamy thick bridges and tremolo soaked choruses all led by Rose.
“Raw Sugar” is a gritty gem with a sexy, sassy bounce that also hails crossover signals to me. As with the rest of this too-short disc, each melody that Stacie picks is a dead on winner. Her choruses make perfect sense and lift each song into a memorable position in the listening experience. Her lyrical word play is tongue in cheek clever as she sums it up with, “ Raw Sugar on my Tongue, I guess the best is yet to come.”
“Maybe Only Tonight” crosses into that rock/dance territory. It should probably have been on the Raw Sugar CD but it still holds up well. Think Shirley Manson and Garbage and you’d be close to home on this one.
All in all, I have to say, great job from Rose on both discs. It’s not easy releasing two separate sounds together and keeping a focus on who you are as an artist, but I think she’ll do well with Alter Ego as its stays definitive while speaking strongly for both of her selves. For further info go to stacierose.com
Russo Music- The New Candy Man Of Cookman Avenue
Music stores tend to fall short of most serious shoppers idea of a good experience. Ask anyone and you’ll hear the same old stories. The unabashed guitarists lining the amp isles and shredding to songs they can never get right, the drummers bashing away like the one on the back porch in the movie Slingblade and the swell sales guy swinging the acoustic guitar room key like one of the guards in The Shawshank Redemption all add up fast. For the most part whether they know it or not, they’re herding you towards the exit, leaving you clutching a pack of hastily purchased kazoo and a string winders instead of a real buy.
And this is why millions of us end up looking to Ebay or Craigslist to get what we want. Lets face it, no one wants to go to a store that leaves you looking up at all the guitars that you can’t reach or the microphones that sit in special rooms, guarded by Plexiglas and locks. It doesn’t matter if you’re just picking up an instrument for the first time or the 1000th time, no one likes that condescending treatment.
But I’ve recently found safe haven where the musician is taken very seriously. Russo Music manager Scott Engel is a guitarist and former member of Cryptkeeper 5 and he knows all about the pitfalls of the retail world. If anything, he goes out of his way to break those stereotypes and make you want to come into his place and feel like it’s okay to touch the merchandise without a stare from the staff. He also is gaining a rep for his own superb guitar repairs and has reportedly brought legendary amp builder Billy Penn on board to do all amp repairs, including vintage gear.
Engel knows that coming into town in this economy with a music store is risky in itself, let alone one that doesn’t get on board with the real population of working players.
Scott apparently approached boss Russo with a business plan that made sense and is now out to show the community that a music store visit can be something besides a nightmare. Couches and amps are scattered around the shop and axes are at arm’s length. Sales reps wave and smile as you grab stuff of the wall for a spin. The goal of Russo’s is to have musicians gather at the store and buy from people they know and trust. Scott and his staff hang out in the scene all week long and have a good feel for the wants and needs of performers. This mindset has increased business and, as Brad Pitt says in Inglorious Basterds, “business is boomin.’”
For over fifty years, Russo Music has called NJ home base (first in Trenton and now Hamilton) and they cater to that special clientage that demand more than rack merchandise. They have ruled the western area for years in their flagship location and this new development with Scott Engel is the smartest thing they could do. Okay, enough chatter, hand me that ‘57 gold top. For info on the Russo’s music or if you want better movie references than mine, head over to russomusic.com.