Chadwick Stokes: Simmerkane II Review


State Radio and Dispatch veteran delivers masterful debut.

By Chad Grischow

As good as State Radio and Dispatch are, there is little in Chadwick Stokes’ previous work that leads you to expect the rustic folk masterpiece he puts forth as his solo debut. Stokes’ first outing as a solo singer-songwriter is the kind of jaw-dropping beauty that leaves you wondering what took so long.

From the classic folk style of sweet insect love song “Spider And Gionma”, full of nature and acoustic guitar, to the sweet, quaint narrative tale of twin horses born on a farm for “Ichabod And Abraham”, Stokes proves a dazzling lyricist throughout. His comforting vocals and a gorgeous harmony strike just the right tone on mellow, strummy “Rainsong”, as he recalls the family car breaking down on vacation. Loosely shimmering guitar and a touch of lap steel in the background make “Crowbar Hotel” as appealing musically as it is lyrically. Stokes professes, “But I’d rather be a bum than a bitch / And I’d rather catch a dog than a switch / And I’d rather get a meal than a kiss / But I wouldn’t mind both”, over the feel-good jangle of the verses before the exuberant, celebratory hook demands you get up and dance along.

The hazy warmth of Stokes’ melodic vocals wash over “Religion On The Rails” like a sunrise reaching across a field, confessing, “And I prayed to the gods for thunder / But I prayed to the clouds for rain”, as the song of faith kicks up its heels and swells with lap steel and an energetic beat in the ragged hook. The laid back bliss of piano and acoustic led “Black Bottle” soars on the strength of the aching, passionate vocals and excellent melody, while the move toward whispery, restrained verses of “Back To The Races” sells the surge of emotion in the hook.

The sweet flicker of finger picked guitar and vocals, effortlessly drifting between falsetto and tenor, rolling along with the great melody really work well on “I Love Your Army”, where he admits, “Whoever said a kiss don’t count / Well, that person must’ve never, never been kissed by you”, before the toe-tapping hook. The pitch-perfect, rich harmonies and killer melody driving dangerously addictive love song “Adelaide”, bristling with distorted guitar and slippery lap steel, make it clear Stokes is in his element in this rural environment. Stokes’ debut is one of the year’s biggest surprises, begging the question, ‘Where can I get Simmerkane I?’