Chris Stills – Don’t Be Afraid (Rive Gauche Music)
Chris Stills is back in the game, and his first record in ten years is maybe his most confessional record yet. So where has he been for the past decade?
Well, he has been looking after his young daughters and doing a spot of acting — appearing in shows such as Cleopatra, Requiem For A Killer and Shameless — but now he is back to producing the same kind of folk-rock that made his father, Stephen, a superstar in the 1970s.
Helped out by friends, including Ryan Adams (who appears on the record’s best track ‘Criminal Mind’), Don’t Be Afraid may well be his best work since his debut, 100 Year Thing. However, it takes a while to get into, coming across more as a collection of different recording sessions than a free-flowing album.
Opener ‘This Summer Love’ is laid back Rock and second track ‘Hellfire Baby Jane’ sets the groove to a climax in the middle three tracks; ‘Lonely Nights‘, ‘The Weekend’ and ‘Criminal Mind’.
‘Lonely Nights’ is the masterpiece of the record. Starting slowly it reminds me of a musical I can’t quite put my finger on. This only adds to the atmosphere of the track, culminating in strong vocals, piano, drums, bass and guitar finish. ‘The Weekend’ sees Stills talk about going on a bender and losing his mobile phone – it’s happened to us all. Although on ‘Criminal Mind’ it is Stills singing, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was Adams himself on lead vocals. This wouldn’t seem out of place on Ryan’s latest releases.
‘In Love Again’ and ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ are simple songs and the theme of Stills telling himself not to be afraid is pertinent throughout the LP. There’s a bit of anti-Trump sentiment on ‘Blame Game’: “never in my lifetime did I feel the land of the free would elect a fascist leader…” he proclaims.
The rest of the tracks don’t stand out as much as these, however, there’s a lot of potential here for Stills – ‘Leaving You Behind’ should be a live favourite. This record is better than the second self-titled effort. Title track ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is quite boring, but that’s the only fault with this album. Overall it’s nothing spectacular but at the same time, not bad at all.
Speaking about the album’s collection of tunes, Stills says; “There was a lot of life that had to happen – a lot of things had to go right for this album to see the light of day. For as long as there’s a slight embarrassment in regards to how long it took, I can’t knock myself, because I went through quite a bit. Like anybody else, I’ve had my ups and downs in this business and personally as well, but I never stopped doing what I do. Some stars just needed to align. The songs themselves are an honest chronicle from various moments of my journey to now.”
Let’s hope there is not such a long wait for a follow-up.
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