James Lee Stanley
The Apocaloptimist is James Lee Stanley’s 27th release. He has been a steadily prolific artist for a long time, and I always look forward to his new work. This is one of his best, and most polished, efforts.
The title is of course a word James Lee has coined out of his dismay at the directions the world keeps moving in combined with his innate hope good results will somehow prevail. He has sequenced the album to tell a story larger than the individual songs.
“Living the Party Life” captured the feeling of dancing in the face of all ill. (“What do wee do when we win? We Party/What do we do when we lose? Party harder.”) “Gypsies in the Hallway” is sung from the safe zone in one’s home dreading the dangers outside. Paul Barrere adds a wonderful slide part here. “Last Call” is a snapshot of sweet times at nights’ ends. There is a delicious take of the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” that in no way mimics the original and soars on a gorgeous Corky Siegel harmonica solo. “Here We Have My Father” is a loving portrati and missive of thanks to family members. James Lee notes the guitar part here is informed by the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”
“Highway 23″ features Lawrence Juber on second guitar as it limns those never ending inner decisions about direction. Siegel again spices up the meditative instrumental “Etude in E Minor.” James Lee says the passing of his friend Davy Jones from the Monkees triggered “When You Get Right Down to It.” “Last All Night” touches on fleeting joys with some sweet jazzy guitar by James Hurley. “Any Other Way” is a gift to his wife Evaline. “Twinkle in Your Eyer” is sweet but heartbreaking as a snapshot of a loved one slipping away due to Alzheimer’s. The finale “Lullabye (for Chloe)” is the perfect closer, a peaceful moment in a safe place.
The accompaniment throughout the album is just lovely, as bassist Chad Watson and percussionist Washington Tahr add immeasurably. And James Lee himself gives heartfelt and classy performances. Simply beautiful work, beautifully produced end to end.
I have known and treasured James Lee Stanley’s work for a long, long time, and yet this new release feels like something extra special. The Apocaloptimist is one to treasure.
— Michael Tearson