Stateside, Phonograph

(Action Driver Records)

Imagine a Southern Rooney – pop choruses, fine playing and a deep respect for rock history – and you’ve got Stateside. Yet where Rooney’s rock flies the West Coast flag literally and sonically (with its bright harmonies and breezy rhythms), Stateside draw on Southern rock for their flourishes. One hears the echoes of Skynyrd and .38 Special inside their modern songcraft. On their debut album, Phonograph, Stateside do their level best to reconcile honed hooks with bar band revelry.

Time Time Time sounds like Paul Westerburg indulging his roots-rock fantasies. The rhythm guitar plays dirty without distortion; the vocals emanate from behind the instruments and the chorus sounds like 70s Stones. In fact, much of the record sounds like Westerburg and the Replacements playing Stones source material.

Throughout the album, the tempos are mild – never getting too aggressive. The overall feel is relaxed. Even when they rev it up like on the title cut Phonograph, it still feels right for sitting at a bar killing a beer.

Appropriately, it’s the great guitar work that glues the songs together. From sweet Keith Richards’s licks to vibrato-ed melodies to all-out screaming leads, the guitars play together easily and tastefully within the three-minute pop song format. (Baby Goodbye unapologetically nicks a slide guitar from Freebird.)

John Paul Keith’s voice goes from soft croon to hoarse plea with the same verve as Jeff Tweedy’s. Vocal melodies blend easily into the music and the choruses get drilled into your head by Keith’s insistent delivery.

When the band brings in the lap steel for the Stranded, they deliver pleasant, authentic alt-country without missing a beat. It’s this easy delivery and confident playing that makes Stateside sound like old pros. You’d never know this was a debut.

[This review originally appeared in All The Rage.]