This episode of Big Blend Radio features Berkley, California singer-songwriter Robert Stoner, who has just released his debut album YEAR OF PAIN. He has written and performed music for many years, and now with the help of producer Ben Bernstein, wrote and recorded YEAR OF PAIN over the last year. This impressively strong debut showcases his personal and nuanced grappling with issues ranging from the specific challenges of children growing up and keeping a marriage fresh, to the trials and tribulations of our modern times. More: https://robertstoner.bandcamp.com
ROBERT STONER is a singer-songwriter from Berkeley, CA. He has written and performed music for many years, and now with the help of producer Ben Bernstein has released his debut album YEAR OF PAIN on July 9, 2021. ROBERT STONER, who also goes by Bob, wrote and recorded YEAR OF PAIN over the last year. This impressively strong debut showcases his personal and nuanced grappling with issues ranging from the specific challenges of children growing up and keeping a marriage fresh, to the trials and tribulations of our modern times.
The brother of a professional violinist in New York City, ROBERT STONER comes from a very musical family (one of his cousins even won the Tchaikovsky Competition in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, to great national acclaim). Despite the fact YEAR OF PAIN is his debut release, Bob Stoner is a prolific songwriter who has been writing songs his whole life, and he is already hard at work on his next release. “My songs seem to come in a pretty constant stream,” says Bob. “Songwriting to me is an ongoing process of listening, discovery, fleshing out of ideas, honing and sharpening, and trying to maintain or enhance the original creative energy through the production phase.”
Maintaining a day job as an economist means the songwriting process has not always been straightforward for Bob, but the left and right sides of his brain have fully coalesced on YEAR OF PAIN, resulting in a musical experience that is both provocative and enjoyable for the listener. He worked with Ben Bernstein at Ben Bernstein Music to produce the album, and Ben also contributed lead and electric guitar to the songs. YEAR OF PAIN also features vocal and instrumental contributions from singer-songwriter Maya Elise, and drums and percussion from Mike Stevens. Adding to the personal nature of the album is the artwork painted by Bob’s daughter Lily Stoner, who also contributed vocals on the release.
The songs on YEAR OF PAIN run the gamut from personal reflections on kids moving on in life (“Just a Riverboat”) or relationship difficulties (“Wait Until the Morning”) to commentary on the present state of ethics in the political realm (“The Principle”) and the difficulties that have become engrained in our modern era (“Year of Pain”). The song that leads off the album (“Just a Riverboat”) and the song that ends it (the title track “Year of Pain”) each hold special significance for Bob. “Just a Riverboat” reflects on the time his daughter Lily went off to college back East by way of a trip to New Orleans with friends. It was an exciting moment and an important milestone in her (and Bob’s!) life, and the New Orleans imagery provided the perfect backdrop for the song. “Year of Pain” is a song that sums up the difficult times we live in, with political dysfunction, gun deaths, and growing intolerance leading the list.
ROBERT STONER has many influences in his songwriting, but his sound is uniquely his own. This comes from his eclectic taste in music (which includes everything from classical to showtunes to folk and blues), as well as a relatively long period of time spent amalgamating these influences before his debut album. People have said his songs have echoes of Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan – “I don’t know about that, but I will take the compliment!” says Bob. YEAR OF PAIN showcases Bob Stoner’s writing in the singer-songwriter genre, but he also composes fully instrumental music for the piano and has plans to release an album of that music as well.
“Year of Pain from Robert Stoner [is] a reflective, folksy, rural collection of ballads. Opening with Just a Riverboat, a cool folk ballad duet with vocal and violin accompaniment by May Elise, Stoner shows clear songwriting talent and good balance between vocal and accompaniment. Nicely crafted, Holy Grail, is one of my favorite tracks on the release with a haunting melody, nicely blended vocals and guitar work. Another solid track is Hear Their Voices with a strong melody and subtle backing vocals behind Stoner’s lead vocal and guitar. Wrapping the release is title track, Year of Pain a solid ballad and it’s reflection on today’s issues.”
“Californian dreamer gets down to earth to suffer and sympathize to the sound of a hypnotic melody. Not for nothing Bob’s been one of America’s best-kept secrets, and his mature handling of regular matters seems well out of ordinary. Hopefully, with the year of pain crossing over into timelessness, this artist won’t stop being inspired to come up with new themes and tunes.”
“The nine tracks that make up the album have a very personal, vulnerable sound, as most of the songs only feature Robert’s vocals and an acoustic guitar with some occasional harmonies from fellow singer, songwriter Mary Elise. The album begins with the autobiographical tale of “Just A Riverboat” and the beautiful graceful ballad “Holy Grail.” The delivery of the poetic lyrics of “Out Of Time” and “Wait Until The Morning” demand your attention, as Robert sings about the struggles with personal relationships. He finishes his new album with the quiet, relaxed tone of “Hear Your Voices” and recollections of his past trials of life with “Year Of Pain.”“
“This rather delightful new album opens with the magnificently dulcet, seamlessly flowing Just a Riverboat and the reflective The Principle and backs those up with the Simon & Garfunkel-esque Holy Grail, the gently upbeat Out of Time and then the beautiful summers breeze of Head in the Sand.
Next up is the psych-imbed gossamer of Wait Until the Morning, which is itself followed by the low key ballad Rain Wash Away, and then comes one of my own personal favorites, the lo-fi storytelling of Hear Their Voices, with the album coming to a close on the recounting of difficulties we have all felt recently within Year of Pain.”
“A solid set of songs for aging children come, the economist that comes from a musical background pulls it all together nicely here. Pure recidivist coffeehouse folkie stuff from a sincere folkie singer/songwriter that has taken the long way around to get here.”
“This nine track album showcases his amazing talent as a songwriter and a performer with Ben Bernstein on lead and electric guitar, drums and percussion from Mike Stevens, additional vocals by Robert’s daughter Lily Stoner and vocal and instrumental contributions from singer-songwriter Maya Elise on such tracks as Just A Riverboat, The Principle, Out of Time, Wait Until The Morning, the title track Year Of Pain and much more. This album was well recorded and produced and I am looking forward to see what is next in his career as a songwriter/performer.”
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