The Storys-Cinnamon

We didn’t buy "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo".  By that time, the Byrds were done.  Our first exposure to country rock was Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Not that we knew that’s what they called it.  We just knew "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" sounded so GOOD!

I remember being at my buddy Marc Goloff’s house when he dropped the needle on "Gimmie Shelter".  Back when music was precious, when you couldn’t possess all you wanted, and you discovered new music at your friends’ houses.  Maybe after school, on a weekend, you’d go into a classmate’s bedroom and they’d spin a record that you’d often heard of, but couldn’t afford.  Sometimes it was Johnny Winter, something interesting, but an album you had no need to own yourself.  Other times what came out of the speakers was so infectious that you would have forked over all the money in your wallet to own it IMMEDIATELY!

Marc didn’t turn out the lamps for effect.  There was ambient light from the front porch emerging through the windows of his room.  And when I heard that eerie intro to the Stones opus I was shocked, how did they come up with something this ethereal, this GOOD!

Although he turned me on to "Rock and Roll Woman" from the Buffalo Springfield’s "Retrospective", Marc didn’t introduce me to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes".  I can’t remember who did that.  Seemed that every party you went to that fall you heard the song.  Eventually, I bought the album and fell in love with "Long Time Gone", which had some of the same feel as "Gimmie Shelter".  And I had to buy "Deja Vu" the day it came out.  I played "Carry On" every morning for a month.

Suddenly, country rock was everywhere.  The Dead released "Workingman’s Dead" with "Uncle John’s Band".  Reviewers considered Poco’s debut a masterpiece.  This homey, often acoustic music was the new soundtrack.  With the Beatles gone, kids switched from playing the Merseybeat at parties to the California sound.

And then came "Take It Easy".

The reason "Take It Easy" sticks is that second verse…

Well I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me

Sure, the guitar sound of the intro enraptured the listener just like "Gimmie Shelter", but what makes "Take It Easy" so memorable is the personalization.  Within this one verse is a whole movie.  And hope.  No matter how depressed, how lonely you were, you could listen to "Take It Easy" and believe you were just one chance encounter from having your life work.

Maybe the Eagles were too good.  Their voices were too mellifluous.  Don Henley’s lyrics too poignant.  But the band’s success gave country rock a bad name.  Suddenly, soft, acoustic music was for wimps.  The focus shifted from the west coast back to the east.  Suddenly, it was all about punk.

Of course, disco had its place too.  But after that died, we had MTV, dominated initially by the English acts, and then the video extravaganzas of Michael Jackson and his disciples.  Country rock is seen as a relic akin to hair band music.  And boy band music.  An historical curio.

But if this is so, why does it sound so damn good?  Why do the Eagles outgross not only the punks, but ANYBODY who came thereafter?  Why do they own the best selling album of all time?

Maybe there’s a little bit of magic in that country rock music they’re playing.  Not that anybody will acknowledge this in the States.

Funny thing about the U.K.  They always seem to be picking up on overlooked U.S. sounds, and capitalizing on them.  Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page…they were huge fans of delta blues, which had little mainstream traction in the U.S.  And now we’ve got an English band trying to recapture this California sound.

I can’t ignore e-mail from J.B. Brenner.  He sent me a copy of Willis Alan Ramsey’s album.  Do you know "Satin Sheets"?  Never a hit, but a classic to those who’ve heard it, whether it be the original take, or remakes by the likes of Waylon Jennings and Shawn Colvin.  It fell through my cracks, but J.B. was a huge fan, back when there could be pockets of fans, when something could truly be a regional underground hit.

So, when J.B. sent me a track today, I listened.

Now if I lived in England, and was in the music business, maybe I’d know the Storys story, and might hate them on principle.  Based on their backstory, how they were signed, how they were marketed, how they were hyped.  But I do my best to ignore the hype today.  It barely reaches me.  If it’s so loud that I am aware of it, I’m predisposed to dislike the act involved.  I’m waiting to discover music from alternative sources, from friends I trust, like J.B.

At first I wasn’t impressed.  The Storys’ "Cinnamon" sounded a bit too generic.  But then there was an ENTHUSIASM in the chorus, and the song broke down and came back deep in.  And suddenly I was hooked.

I’ve given up on hipness.  It gets you nowhere.  There’s a circle jerk of music business insiders and hard core music fans who are so deep into it that they’re not interested in what’s ear-pleasing, what sounds good.  And the Storys’ "Cinnamon" sounds good!  It’s about singing and playing.  The members of the act listened to the California sound of yore.  And they might not have taken it one step beyond, but they managed to capture the essence.

Tell me it’s second-rate like America.  Tell me the rest of the songs don’t sound as good.  All I can ask is WHAT POSSESSED THESE PEOPLE TO MAKE THIS MUSIC?  What possessed the Feeling to record "Sewn"?  Didn’t they get the message this music isn’t hip?  That it’s all about beats?

As the U.S. business dies, there’s a vibrancy in the U.K.  Because people are more open, they’re less catholic in their tastes, the first criterion is that something be good.

Then again, the Storys don’t own the chart in the U.K. either.

Our values are all fucked up.  We’re so busy moving forward that we’ve left the essence behind.  The fundamentals always play.  Good vocals and good changes are the building blocks of success.  They’re not the ONLY way to success, but why are they denigrated to such a degree today?

The take of "Cinnamon" on MySpace is not the same one I’ve got, it’s missing a middle section, which contains a bit of the track’s magic.  And don’t even bother to listen if you’re a hip-hopper or metalhead, this music isn’t for you.  But if you remember sitting in your dorm back in the seventies, breaking the shrinkwrap on earthy records, this is going to resonate with you.  This will remind you when sweet didn’t mean shit.  When if you could raise your head in the air and sing along it was seen as a GOOD THING!

Now that the mainstream has collapsed, there’s an opportunity for all the music lambasted by those in control of the media to come back.  Musicians can go straight to the public, which is the new gatekeeper.

"Cinnamon" doesn’t have the lyrics of "Take It Easy".  It verges on forgettable.  But it gives me hope.  That someone out there still CARES about this music, this sound!

The Storys (It’s the third track…)

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