By Jeffery L. Carey Jr.
Very few local bands are as polished and professional sounding as the Flint-based Katie Stanley Band. With the recent release of Katie Stanley’s third EP titled, Lake Superior, it would seem the band is progressing in the right direction.
As a singer/songwriter myself, I looked for several criteria in the EP that generally create a well constructed record. I focused on whether Lake Superior had a theme within the collection of songs that held the entire EP together. Also, did it musically take the listener on a roller coaster of ups, downs, and in-betweens through arrangement of tracks? Finally, was there a particular quality of lyrics– meaning, were they thought out and intellectually crafted?
Thematically, Lake Superior, like the five Great Lakes themselves, is comprised of five interconnected songs. All five titles from the EP, “Nathan Avenue” “Orbit,” “Walk Away,” “Dusk till Dawn,” and the title track, “Lake Superior,” all are interlaced in the theme of love and loss. It is the classic breakup record. Stanley references some type of longing, need or regret for her lost “honey” in each song, with that word acting as the connecting link.
The music compilation falls comfortably into the folk and country genre which the Katie Stanley Band ascribes to, and does not fail to deliver. With the lead singer, Katie Stanley, on piano and guitar; Michelle McAuley on percussion; and Tammy Pendleton on upright bass the trio produces, lyrically, vocally and musically, a well-crafted blues quintuplet of songs.
All five tracks are wonderful to listen to. They are emotionally heartfelt songs that drew me in and kept me listening throughout the EP. Recorded and produced at Nick Diener’s Oneder Studio, recently relocated from Saginaw to Chesaning, the sound quality of the EP is as professional as any major label.
The first four tracks on the record, while great songs individually, change only subtly in tempo. That is one of the only drawbacks of the EP. Some greater variance in the arrangement of the tracks would have enhanced the emotional effect of the record as a whole. This is really only a minor drawback as the songs are certainly enjoyable. The fifth and final track though, also the title track of the EP, “Lake Superior”, is an up-tempo song that one falls into and never wants to come out of. I have happily found the track lingering in my mind days after listening to it.
The melodiously mournful music of the Katie Stanley Band is without question distinguishable. Stanley has created a unique and identifiable signature with her voice. Upon first listening to the EP I placed the sound in the same vain as K.D. Lang as it brought to mind her song “Constant Craving” primarily because of the long drawn out notes and vibrato in Stanley’s voice.
There also are hints of Stanley’s influences with a clear similarity to her paternal grandfather’s cousin, Ralph Stanley, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, who had an interestingly melancholy voice as well. A listener also can detect mild allusions to Carole King, Sam Cooke, and others of the Motown epoch.
What truly stands out on the EP, though, are the lyrics. Stanley has crafted five honest pieces of poetry put to music. Her line in the first track, “Nathan Avenue,” “looking for your shadow in the moon,” beautifully ties into the next track, “Orbit.” I particularly like Stanley’s use of an old phrase in the song “Dusk Till Dawn,” “I don’t see you anymore. It’s been years since you darkened my door.” The phrase “darken my door” is something more out of the Etta James era and is refreshing to hear in a contemporary song. In the title song, she writes, “I can’t look at Lake Superior again / without wondering where I’m bound to fall in” and adds, poignantly, “Sometimes I’m ashamed of the person I am/Oh, there’s things I can change, others I can’t/but I’m doing better now/I’m doing better, can’t you see?”
While the Katie Stanley band openly identifies with the LGTBQ community, Stanley’s lyrics are marvelously written to be accessible to all as they are gender neutral. Each song can be sung along with and identified with, which makes the Katie Stanley Band’s music timeless. Over all I highly recommend the Katie Stanley Band and their new EP, Lake Superior. Some of their earlier music can be heard on the free listening website SoundCloud or all three of their EP’s are available on the band site, katiestanleymusic.com.
EVM Staff Writer Jeffery L. Carey, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.