With the release of their debut album, Melbourne five-piece Stevie and the Sleepers have achieved something rare in modern music – authenticity. Stevie Joy and Jason Fados have announced themselves as songwriters who can truly tell a story.
Sonically, most of the time it’s a straight down the line Blues record. It flirts with Blues Rock, Bluegrass, Soul and Motown, but it’s all laid over the wonderful foundations of the blues.
The constant crying, wailing and screaming of a masterfully controlled steel guitar gives this record the kind of gravitas that others like it so often lack. If a blues song doesn’t make you shiver, weep or cry tears of joy it hasn’t done its job.
The blues is, in my humble opinion, the most visceral of all musical genres and when you take on the task of making a worthy blues record, you have to know what the hell you’re doing. I’m happy to report that the members of this band certainly do.
The rhythm section either punches or softly glides you along. That kind of nuance is rare and appreciated. The guitar is everything from clean 60s pop to full-blown Hendrix, and does it all effortlessly. And god knows we all need a little more brass in our lives.
And then, there’s that voice. It’s the kind of voice that would make the deaf smile.
I had goosebumps all the way through “Young Again”. Was it the church organ? The steel guitar? The extraordinary timbre in Stevie’s vocals? All three I suspect. Either way, it felt a lot like a religious experience. Which, whether you’re a believer or not, is exactly how the blues is meant to feel.
But it’s not all tears and introspection. “Rumbling” offers some powerful female imagery it’s pointed and confident. I like that in a song. And boy does it romp.
I hear some Fleetwood Mac, a little Otis Redding, and even some Diana Ross and the Supremes. Yet, I think Stevie and the Sleepers have successfully stamped their own groove into the history of Blues.
I can only imagine this band would be a ripping good time live. Which I’ll make sure I confirm as soon as I can.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)