George St. Clair / Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom – CD Review
The American singer, musician and composer George St. Clair has been living in England for several years, but grew up in Texas. His family worked on the local oil fields, so the young George has already received a proper dose of so-called hard life with hard work and poor pay. At some point he moved to Austin, Texas, where he got his real baptism of fire as a live artist. He has been working as an archaeologist and anthropologist for over twenty years, leading him through several southern US states and Mexico, before moving to Europe. However, the music never left him like his homeland, so he moved back to the USA for the recordings of “Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom”, more specifically to Richmond, California.
And if that was just good for finding musicians with the right feel for St. Clair’s songs and style, then that step was well worth it. The American puts on the twelve tracks presented here wonderful, melodic Americana and Roots Rock songs that are far from being smoothed or set up. With the usual organic instruments recorded, it is in addition to the high-quality performances of the session musicians above all again and again the vocal melodies that go very well in the ear and stay there mostly for a long time. In addition to piano, bass and drums, the acoustic guitar is the dominant instrument. The icing on the cake comes mostly from the pedal steel guitar, which rounds off the pieces again and again.
Lyrically, George St. Clair is about interpersonal issues, but another big point is the relationship between the original American inhabitants and the so-called ‘white’ population. The above style designations suggest it already: Here are of course many country influences in the game, but also folk and singer / songwriter bonds are represented. The very successful mixture of these genres then makes the disc the one it has become. The pedal steel guitarist Dan Lebowitzbut also brings an electric into the game, which of course does not hurt. For example, “Cynthia”, which is otherwise only supported by the acoustic, the bass and some percussion, has a vocal line to die for, and a ton of feeling. And before I forget it: A good pinch of Westcoast is also in there.
“Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom” has not become a lurid album, but also not overly thoughtful or melancholy. The lyrics raise a lot of unanswered questions about which it would be essential (especially for Americans) to think about it. However, the disc does not pull the listener into an emotional basement at any time, because the songs themselves are much too good for that. The opener “Tularosa” is (like “Up To Fail”) a very strong country rock-number, with “New Mexico” it’s back to Westcoast and with “Talkin ‘Mesquite” one automatically thinks of the Talking Blues- Pieces of a Townes Van Zandt ,
George St. Clair does not (yet?) Have a big or well-known name, but you should definitely check “Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom”, if you are on very good Americana and Roots music.
Line-up George St. Clair:
George St Clair (acoustic guitar, bongos, lead & background vocals)
Mike Stevens (drums & percussion)
Dan Lebowitz (pedal steel guitar, electric guitar)
Ben Bernstein (bass, lead acoustic guitar – # 3)
Kirby Hammel (piano, organ )
Mark Estall (background vocals)
Maya Abramson (background vocals)
David Cuetter (pedal steel guitar – # 1,2)
Amy Sher (fiddle – # 1)
Tracklist “Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom”:
- The Places Where They Prayed
- Autumn 1889
- Good Times
- Up To Fail
- Lie To Them
- New Mexico
- Pedro Paramo
- Talkin ‘Mesquite
Total playing time: 56:36, release year: 2018
To order BALLADS OF CAPTIVITY AND FREEDOM from Bandcamp please visit georgestclair.bandcamp.com