Opening with the train-track rhythm of “Adelaide”, Chad Stokes Urmston’s debut solo album Simmerkane II, released under Stokes’ own label, Ruff Shod Records, takes inspiration from Stokes’ trip across America’s countryside as a freight train stowaway. With a history of rock, reggae, acoustic and funk roots of from his previous bands Dispatch and State Radio, Chad’s new project moves away from college anthems and political activism. Stokes harnesses his creativity with a record released under the genre of folk music while retaining the catchy pop vocals consistent with Stokes’ previous work.
Stokes’ musical craftsmanship manipulates the transition of song pace throughout each track. Songs like “Religion on the Rails” and “I love your Army” lure the listener into a slow folk groove and then catch them off guard with catchy heartfelt choruses. Songs that lead with solid acoustic rhythm like “Back to the Races” use their momentum to exploit off-balance transitions. This album is a perfect example of how effective control over pacing can lure the listener in.
The album is filled with genuine stories about Stokes’ childhood in Massachusetts. Aside from the acoustic rhythm, these lyrics are what allow the album to carry a folk genre. “Ichabod and Abraham” tell the story of twin horses. “We called him Stretch / ‘Cause he was so skinny and tall / Mamma said both twins rarely live with horses / We was lucky to have one living at all”. “Rainsong” reminisces about a rainy family car ride with sheep in the back of their black pick up truck. When the car breaks down, “Mom looked at Dad just shakin’ her head / He swore the engine was still good”. “Coffee and Wine”, a bonus disc toe wiggler, is nothing more than the love story of his parents.
State Radio is still an active band, and Dispatch has just completed an official reunion tour in support of their new EP, announcing a full length album is on the way for 2012. Where is Chadwick finding the time for this solo career? If I had to guess, Stokes won’t be spending much more time on this project, at least in the near future. A musical career path doesn’t involve much guesswork when the opportunity to sell out amphitheaters with Dispatch and fill up some of America’s most reputable music clubs with State Radio compete with Chadwick Stokes and the Pintos playing at a 250 capacity bar.
Nevertheless, this album works well as the debut solo effort for Chadwick Stokes. It’s refreshing to hear music that counters the cause-driven melodies of State Radio and compressed creativity of Dispatch, but only time will tell if this album is the start of a successful solo career or just another Sunday morning soundtrack. Check it out on Soundcloud, where the entire album is available for stream.
Songs to listen to: “Adelaide”
“Coffee and Wine”