A New Two CD Collection by Chris Stamey

Let me quote from the essay that begins this collection:

"Does the 20th Century need more songs, you ask? A good question! And one with an obvious answer: The Great American Songbook has been doing pretty well by itself all along (thank you very much) without any help from me."
With this collection, I'm not presuming to be doing any more than humbly acknowledging a debt of inspiration to the canon of Mid-Century Modern works by George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers and the rest.

But I can honestly say, however, that I'm extremely proud of the "new, old-fashioned" tunes in this song cycle I've been writing for the last three years. And I want to send them out into the world. It's time for them to be heard, for you to hear them.


When my childhood piano came back to live with me here in Chapel Hill, in 2015, it brought with it such vivid childhood memories of those classic songs of the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. And, really for the first time, I began to discover what lay inside this kind of writing. It wasn't easy. I'd only rarely read music since my college days. The piano bench was full of old songbooks, however, and I studied their melodies and chord progressions late into the night, and spent a lot of time at the university and asking questions of great players, finding my way.

Since then, I've been recording versions of these new songs as interpreted by some amazing singers and players, including Bill Frisell, Branford Marsalis, Django Haskins, Skylar Gudasz, Don Dixon, Millie McGuire, John Brown, Kirsten Lambert, Matt Douglas, Nenna Freelon, Will Campbell, Wes Lachot, Scott Sawyer, Jim Crew, Dan Davis, Jason Foureman, Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon, and Peter Holsapple. The performances are gorgeously warm and evocative, sometimes minimal and stark, sometimes orchestral and sweeping. And the sonics are impeccable, from sessions at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium, Wes Lachot's Overdub Lane, Brent Lambert's Kitchen Mastering, and my own Modern Recording.*

Album Release Performance August 2, 2019 at Cat's Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC

Praise for New Songs for the 20th Century:

'New Songs for the 20th Century is an amazing album. The songs astound, as if lifted out of a time machine; to highlight some songs and not others is almost criminal. Those familiar with the Great American Songbook will likely be enthralled by this rich collection. Backed by the Mod Rec Orchestra, many great musicians bring Stamey's new songs to life. The beautiful and luxurious "I Don't Believe in Romance" features singer Caitlin Cary and has the magic of a Burt Bacharach classic; the wistful "What is This Music that I Hear?" and "On an Evening Such as This" are both bolstered by singer Kirsten Lambert's affecting vocals. The jazzy "There's Not a Cloud in the Sky" and more contemporary "I Am Yours" are among the memorable tracks on disc one. The jazzy "Beneath the Underdog" (featuring Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon and Django Haskins), the beautiful "In Spanish Harlem," and nuanced "Lover, Can You Hear Me?" bring equal power to the second disc.' — Robert Kinsler, Rock 'N' Roll Truth (blog)

'Musicians from Rod Stewart to Bob Dylan have turned to the Great American Songbook to revive their creative juices. But Chris Stamey has taken a different approach. Instead of singing other people's compositions, he's rearranged a handful of old songs and written a raft of new ones that are akin to material for a 1958 recording session by Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald.'— Geoffrey Himes review, Downbeat Magazine, September, 2019

'This is a prodigious project that asks for real attention. Fortunately, the gift of this music pays off in timeless beauty and unlimited inspiration. It's like the past has been reinvigorated by the present, with nothing lost and everything gained.' — Bill Bentley review, Americana Highways, July 10, 2019

'"Insomnia" perfectly exemplifies the full album's intelligence and exuberance for rich harmonic environments and material unencumbered by compositional excess. Not a note is wasted.' — Pop Matters, May 16, 2019

"It's terrific: he has penned a batch of beautiful lyrics and melodies, and the performances here are uniformly fine. [Stamey has] rounded up a large group of talented players for his project, including dBs cofounder Peter Holsapple, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Marshall Crenshaw, and Branford Marsalis, to name a few.' — Americana Highways (blog), June10, 2019

'This is a sprawling, brilliant piece of work: 26 songs across two CDs, and each one is a masterpiece. And, even better, there are unmistakable Chris Stamey footprints throughout. . . . I'm not sure how old someone has to get before you can't call him a "Boy Genius" anymore, but at least I know now that it's post-60.' — Mike Fornatale, Shindig, July 8, 2019.

'Stamey does an amazing job matching the songs to the singers . . . the velvet voice of Django Haskins singing the swinging sound of "Manhattan Melody (That's My New York)" and the sweeping ballad "It's Been A While" . . . Kristen Lambert performing the lush ballads "What Is This Music That I Hear?" and "On An Evening Such As This" . . . Millie McGuire's stellar vocals grace the jazzy ballad "I Fall In Love So Easily" and the gentle flow of "Pretty Butterfly" . . . Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon and Django Haskins for the upbeat, gospel-like New Orleans-style jazz of "Beneath The Underdog.' — JP's Music Blog

'...thrilling, evocative' — John Platt, WFUV New Folk Initiative, writing about "Manhattan Melody"

'JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of the video for "Manhattan Melody (That's My New York)" by Chris Stamey and the ModRec Orchestra. . . . [B]oth the song and the album aren't quite what you'd expect based on his résumé' — the influence of the Great American Songbook is strong, and the overall sound is much closer to jazz than rock. It doesn't hurt that Stamey brought in some ringers here: Branford Marsalis on tenor sax, Matt Douglas on clarinet, Jim Crew (along with Stamey himself) on piano, Jason Foureman on bass, and Dan Davis on drums. Django Haskins is the vocalist, one of more than a dozen singers who alternate tracks throughout the album, including Nnenna Freelon, Ariel Pocock, and power-pop maestro Marshall Crenshaw.' — Jazz Times, June 28, 2019

'This is a stunning project that will capture the attention of listeners from several genres and from those who bestow awards for such projects.' — Glide Magazine, June 26, 2019

'Bravo to Stamey, and hopefully these songs will find their way into live performances and recording sessions by other artists and in some ways become part of a New American Songbook.' — Robert Baird, 20th Century Globe, July 10, 2019

'Stamey, with a terrific cast of musicians including folks like Branford Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Caitlin Cary and many others, doing the Tin Pan Alley type of tunes with really stunning results. On Disc One a few songs that really grabbed me were "Occasional Shivers" (sung by the lovely NNenna Freelon) and the gorgeous "Your Last Forever After" (sung by the great Caitlin Cary who really soars here). On Disc Two, "Beneath the Underdog" (which Marshall Crenshaw and Don Dixon both appear) really kicks it into gear while "In Spanish Harlem" evokes a late night walk on a summer evening. Oh, and do not miss the terrific "I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love With You" (sung by the very talented Kirsten Lambert who is all over this record). . . . Stamey and his crew really put their best foot forward here and they really do nail it, all subtlety and no bombast. The songs were inspired by a different era but they bring it completely up to date  and truly deliver a moving batch of songs.' — Dagger Zine (blog), July 18, 2019