First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2002, Volume 9, #7
Written by John Metzger
Sometimes the music industry does strange things. Take this oddity for example: Gary Stier’s recently released debut The Albatross is actually the initial effort from his former band Buffalo Nickel that was issued nearly two years ago. In other words, The Albatross is merely repackaged for a different record label with one extra song, a new title, and a new cover. Why this happened is anyone’s guess, though I’d bet that somewhere along the line there were lawyers and marketing execs involved.
Regardless, Stier surrounded himself with a terrific backing band that includes former John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff, Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, The Wallflowers’ Michael Ward, The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris, and veteran producer Danny Kortchmar. Despite this, The Albatross is little more than a tuneful collection of solid, if not exactly groundbreaking, roots-rock songs. At times, the guitars passionately clatter and rage, and at times, the songs nearly reach the anthem-like glory for which they strive. But more often than not, the tracks ultimately wind up sounding a bit too much like everything else on the market.
It’s a shame, really, because throughout The Albatross, Stier proves to be a decent lyricist, particularly on the confessional Miss America & I. Here, Stier replays his life as a "tortured poet king," offering an apology of sorts for the pain and anguish his misdeeds have caused his wife and child. It’s the same type of heartfelt and deeply personal storytelling that has consistently sprung from the pens of America’s great songwriters. And, while Stier has yet to join their ranks, he at least has shown the inclination to get there.
The Albatross is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box