J.D. Stooks says it best himself on his MySpace: "I play slow sad bastard music."
For all intents and purposes he does, though there's an occasional buoyancy to Stooks new record, Women & Gold that'll appeal to most fans of acoustic folk-rock, even the ones who prefer the more upbeat offering of Pete Yorn types.
The well-connected Stooks (local production mastermind Bob Hoag recorded the CD, and plays on it, as do former Loveblisters Lou Kummerer and Ryan Casey and long-time singer/scenester Yolanda Bejarano) has a great feel for Phoenix, from "Mary Moeur" (an ode to the ghost at Casey's Moore's that was actually recorded at the venerable Tempe watering hole) to the novelty of outerwear, as documented on "10 lb. Coat."
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The fifth song, "Suzanne," is the peak, chock-full of brilliant banjo and some of Stooks' stronger vocals. It starts out slowly with before picking up the pace to become a nice little mid-tempo ballad. "They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To" has a rougher feel thanks to loose bits of electric guitar that dominate the simple bass line and subdued vocals. "A Touch Of Orange," has too much acoustic strumming for my taste, the interesting snippets of bells and piano lost below a simplistic rhythm part.
Overall, Women & Gold is a respectable effort, with some good songwriting and a nice feel. Though he's in to the "Slow sad bastard music" I'd be eager to hear what Stooks could do with a focus on upbeat material, since it's where he really shines.
By the way, Stooks has a record release party scheduled for June 20 at Modified Arts.