HITS MAGAZINE (Roy Trakin):
Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, hERE aND nOW (Bar/None Records): Connoisseurs consider these two Winston-Salem childhood buddies the Lennon & McCartney of late ’70s-early ’80s post-punk new wave pop-rock through their pairing, in such cult bands as The Sneakers, the dB’s, Continental Drifters and Golden Palominos as well as their individual associations with R.E.M., Bob Mould, Alex Chilton and Television’s Richard Lloyd. It’s been 17 years since the duo last collaborated on a studio album, 1992’s Mavericks on Rhino/RNA, and this reunion for Glen Morrow’s longstanding indie Bar/None label marks a most welcome return. The 14 songs are equally divided between the two, with a cover of ’60s U.K. art-rock group Family’s “My Friend the Sun” the only non-original, though they make it their own, thanks to the evocative Beach Boys-style harmonies. Elsewhere, they pay tribute to their influences with the lush waves of sound and Neil Young-ish On the Beach vibe of Stamey’s “Santa Monica,” marking a full-fledged dB’s reunion, thanks to the presence of that band’s original rhythm section, bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple’s Beatlesque “Here and Now” is about the songwriter’s raison d’etre, a celebration of how music can touch an audience: “And if someone leaves this place tonight/And on the way home sings a song/When they were here/They sang along with us/They sang along.” Peter’s Springsteenish “Early in the Morning,” an ode to domesticity and trying to get some sleep, features Branford Marsalis as Peter and Chris' Big Man, playing a smoky sax to accompany Holsapple’s post-coital breakfast menu: “English muffin/Marmalade/I’m glad you came/I’m glad you stayed.” A mid-song tempo change signals intimacy: “Can you hear me/Up close whisper in your ear/You’ve been sleeping/And I can’t always tell you’re here.” Stamey’s “Widescreen World” is an Elvis Costello-styled rocker spiced by Tyson Rogers’ whirling, carnival-like acetone organ, while his “Broken Record” is a Brian Wilson-like celebration of playing a vinyl disc on a turntable that name-checks “Satisfaction,” “Love Is Blue” and De La Soul, sweetened by Lisa Lachot’s flute fills and a pulsing, Steve Reich-ian fade. “Begin Again” is Holsapple’s paean to his adopted home of New Orleans, where he lived for 13 years before Hurricane Katrina chased him back to Durham two years ago. “Where do you go/When there’s nothing to return to?” he asks, with Branford’s keening sax and a plucked guitar representing the internal conflict of “Should I stay or should I leave?” Stamey’s elegiac, longing “Bird on the Wing” compares the changing of the seasons to saying goodbye to a leaving lover: “Where will you go/When the autumn turns to snow/When the tall timbers bend/When the harvest must end… Where are you now?” Holsapple’s country-inflected “Some of the Parts” is highlighted by Greg Readling’s pedal steel, while Chris’ “Song for Johnny Cash” praises the Man in Black, “When I’m lost/You make me believe…” The Eagles-ish “Long Time Coming” is Peter’s nod to once more collaborating with his old pal: “Happy days are here again/Back to where it all began/The fascinating whereabouts/To find so much, much later on/Where you wanna go/Depends on how you wanna go.” With “To Be Loved,” Chris offers Everly Brothers harmonies, his own Carl Wilson croon, a tinkling piano, twangy guitar and pedal steel for a winning warmth, while in “Tape Op Blues,” Stamey, who co-produced the album with Holsapple at Modern Recording, his Chapel Hill home studio, expresses love for the recording process with a melody that touches on “American Pie” and offers every performer’s phobia: “Now I stand at the microphone/Out of time and all alone/Wonder what they’re saying about me,” before asking the immortal question, “Now what would the Ramones have done?” With hERE aND nOW, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey have nothing to worry about on that account. Their music sounds just as fresh today as it did almost two decades ago.
THE WASHINGTON POST (Mark Jenkins)
Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey: Live Last Night
Harmonizing into a single microphone last night at Iota, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey looked a little and sounded a lot like the Everly Brothers. The resemblance was not coincidental. The veteran North Carolina pop-rockers included two Everlys tunes, "The Lord of the Manor'' and "Let It Be Me,'' in their 75-minute set.
Yet the singer-songwriters, who fronted the dB's three decades ago, are less Phil and Don than Paul and John: Holsapple writes bright melodies and direct lyrics, while Stamey's work tends to be trickier and more sardonic.
The distinction was clear on Monday, even though most of the material came from the brand new "Here and Now,'' a low-key collection that's the duo's first album together since 1991's "Mavericks.''
Holsapple's songs included "Early in the Morning,'' a mildly regretful ode to middle-aged domesticity: "I'm your cheap date/But I remember when I wasn't.'' Stamey responded with "Tape Op Blues,'' a tale of recording-studio self-delusion: "The first few weeks went swimmingly/We fired the drummer and drank coffee.''
Despite some first-night-of-the-tour flubs, Holsapple and Stamey gracefully reclaimed their partnership. Backed by an acoustic bassist and a discreet drummer, the twosome showed a common taste in covers (American power-pop progenitor Chris Bell, British cult band Family) and the strong affinity for their own songs.
The evening's perfect segue was from Stamey's "Santa Monica,'' the new album's loveliest number, to Holsapple's "Nothing Is Wrong,'' a dB's classic. The duo's voices don't meld as closely as the Everlys', but their songs fit together fine.
SPIN MAGAZINE (David Menconi)
Reunited power poppers summon melodic magic.
Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, best known as cofounders of early-'80s indie legends the dB's, have done fine work individually, but they’re still meant to be heard together—and hERE aND nOW deftly proves it. Their first full-length collaboration since 1991's stellar Mavericks is a beautiful set of grown-up pop, meshing Holsapple's emotional directness with Stamey's headier approach. It's a highly effective counterpoint that even works on songs they didn't write themselves: The duo's lilting version of "My Friend the Sun," originally by the late-'60s/early-'70s British art-rock band Family, has the jingle-jangle shimmer of a lost Beatles single, a hit in an alternative universe far, far away.
MUSOSCRIBE.COM (Bill Kopp)
Once in awhile a record comes along that is so special, so singularly amazing, that it nearly defies criticism. The album hERE aND nOW by Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey is such a disc.
Right out of the gate, Holsapple and Stamey deserve kudos for rescuing a beautiful track form undeserved obscurity. Family's 1972 "My Friend the Sun" from the album Bandstand is transcendent. While the duo transposes the song down a few keys, they maintain (and arguably enhance) the song's brilliance. Holsapple and Stamey keep enough of the signature acoustic guitar figures to remain true to the song, yet they breathe new life into it, making it truly their own. It's an exemplar of song interpretation. Chord progressions don't take the most obvious routes, a characteristic the track shares with the best of Holspapple/Stamey original work.
"Santa Monica" also deserves special attention. The arrangement answers the (ok, unasked) question: what would it sound like if Crosby, Stills and Nash joined forces with Neil Young's Crazy Horse and produced a work of subtlety and enduring beauty? It really does feel like something off Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, with the guitars dialed down a bit, and with angelic harmonies. A stunner. And the solo really does channel ol' Neil.
The title track is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and won't leave. Clever turns of phrase, that perfect mid-tempo arrangement that's perfect for slow dancing and singing along, and shifting chords that elevate it above the realm of most of what passes for pop these days. Bonus points for twisting the lyrics to end successive lines with "here and now" and then "hearin' now." Brilliant.
"Early in the Morning" is a lovely tale of domestic bliss, yet it contains the slight sting in its lyrics: "I'm your cheap date / but I remember when I wasn't." It also breathes a bit of new life into the joke about reading the obituaries to see if you're in them. And like all of Holsapple's best work, it has rich musical textures, especially the beat change in the middle-eight.
If the album ended right there -- four songs -- it would approach desert island disc territory. But no. There's nine more. And while they don't all reach the heights of the opening salvo, they're still good-to-great.
"Widescreen World" is another affair altogether. On this upbeat song, the band sounds uncannily like clever popsters They Might Be Giants, and the playful lyrics -- name-checking places on the globe -- serve to further the comparison. The cheesy (I mean that in a good way) Acetone organ and sound effects (plus handclaps and yeah-yeahs) work to make this the poppiest tune on the disc.
"Broken Record" slows things waaaay down. It's a lovely enough tune, definitely bearing the hallmarks of Stamey; in some ways it wouldn't seem out of place on one of Paul McCartney's early albums like Wild Life or Red Rose Speedway. Put another way: nice but not ear candy like many other tracks on hERE aND nOW. But that's a nearly impossible standard; such is the greatness of this special album.
The aptly-named instrumental "Ukulele" is cute and homespun, but even at under two minutes threatens to wear out its welcome. To riff on the Macca comparisons, it's evocative of some of the brief snatches on the 1970 McCartney album.
"Begin Again" is a pastoral, reflective song brightened by emotive saxophone breaks by (of all people) Branford Marsalis and some subtle but well-placed strings.
The harmonies on "Bird on the Wing" provide the most direct connection to the duo's work on their 1991 collaboration Mavericks. The subtle (there's that word again) guitar picking conveys wistfulness, regret and resignation and a glimmer of hope. The guitar solo is a thing of beauty to rival the most tasteful solos of James Taylor.
"Some of the Parts" is a jaunty country-rock romp that reminds this listener of Mike Nesmith, with some off-kilter lyrical turns that bring TMBG to mind again. An uncredited gurgling organ solo adds interest.
"Song for Johnny Cash" is, in a word, beautiful. Like the best of George Harrison's work, it's a love song wherein the subject of affection is unclear: A woman? A higher power? Johnny Cash? Doesn't matter. Great song, worthy of its name.
"Long Time Coming" moves back into Everlys territory. Like many of the tracks on hERE aND nOW, it's packed full of emotion; a careful listen would perhaps enhance one's mood: if you're on the verge of tears, this would turn on the spigot.
"To be Loved" also closely follows the Everly Brothers approach, conjuring an image of a mythical prom night's final song. Pedal steel, modulation of the final chorus...all familiar elements applied to a very classicist song structure, but an excellent example of the form for what it is.
"Tape Op Blues" ends things with a return to dB's territory. The melody is pleasing, but the lyrics are the gem here: they're not-to-be-missed, full of inside jokes and wry observations that musicians will enjoy.
Not one of the fourteen songs on the album breaks the five-minute mark; like the best pop music, they make their point -- musically and/or lyrically -- and then move on. That said, the disc bears -- in fact benefits from -- repeated listening.
hERE aND nOW is absolutely essential for fans of any number of genres. Please, oh please, guys: don't make us wait another eighteen years for another album!
DIXIE DINING WEBLOG:
I first heard of the dB’s (led by Stamey & Holsapple) back when I was in college at WUVT Radio — and that has been a while back! The band came out of North Carolina and were masters of the genre that became known as “Power Pop.” Jangly guitars, crunchy chords, high octane arrangements, catchy melodies - I think you know the drill. Flash forward 30 years or so and the boys are still at it. The have mellowed a bit, but these guys have retained their knack for composing and performing some highly enjoyable music. We especially enjoyed the single “Early in the Morning” and the track called “Santa Monica.” If you fondly remember The dB’s “(I Thought) You Wanted to Know” or Stamey’s timeless “The Summer Sun,” pick up on this CD — and fast! You will surely dig it.
PALM BEACH POST By Larry Aydlette | Album Reviews, Music | June 15, 2009
The spin: This is one of the best records I’ve heard all year, and it’s got everything going against it. It’s on a small label, the performers are regional favorites at best, the biggest name on the disc is guest saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and there isn’t a prayer it’s going to get a serious promotional push. So, I can only hope my recommendation makes you consider buying and listening to Here and Now.
Back in the ’80s, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey fronted the dbs, one of the jangle-pop cult bands that grew out of the Southeast college-radio music scene that spawned REM, Let’s Active and other groups. We all know which one lasted. After the dbs faded, Holsapple worked with REM during the Out Of Time era and toured with Hootie and the Blowfish, while Stamey built a second career as a North Carolina record producer.
On this long-overdue reunion, they prove that time has not blunted their talent. Holsapple and Stamey are such deep musicians that they are able to access any sound, from British Invasion (the title track and a cover of Family’s obscure ’60s song My Friend The Sun) to the Beach Boys jamming with Neil Young’s Crazy Horse (the gorgeous Santa Monica) to alt-country Americana (Bird On The Wing, Long Time Coming) to the Everly Brothers (To Be Loved).
Their ability to mix clever pop lyrics, sweet harmonies and crunchy hooks brings to mind a low-key Fountains of Wayne. I especially like Broken Record and its lyric of metaphorically tying true romance to old favorites: “It might be ‘Satisfaction’/It might be ‘Love Is Blue’/It might be De La Soul/But it will always be me and you.” That’s a song both Brian Wilson and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo would be proud to author.
When somebody asks why they don’t make good, solid pop music anymore, I can only point them to Holsapple and Stamey. It took them 17 years to get back together and make this record, and I hope it doesn’t take that long again. Here and Now is as good as it gets. Hear it now.
The grade: A
By Aarik Danielsen
Any number of outcomes is possible when artists with a history of successful collaboration reunite, as former dB’s bandmates Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey do here for the first time in 17 years. The pair have not worked together since their early ‘90s duo disc Mavericks (whose reissue I gave high marks over a year ago).
The reunion can refresh the artists’ creativity, allowing them to get back in touch with a creative spark that they either have not experienced in some time or haven’t experienced in quite the same way as when they were mutually inspired.
When they’re older and wiser (as Holsapple and Stamey, both now in their fifties, likely are), the artists may temper the sound and sentiment of their previous work with a certain maturity, both musical and lyrical, that focuses their former youthful energy through a world view that has expanded and now incorporates greater understanding, of both their craft and the world.
And, unfortunately, some potential returns to glory are hamstrung by a tendency to soften the edges, paint the corners, get a little too fancy, and allow the songs to become adult contemporary shadows of once hard-charging rock-and-roll numbers.
All three results occur at different points along the 14-track set that makes up Here and Now. . . . [T]he foundation on which Holsapple and Stamey have long built their work (a tremendous sense of melody, almost familial harmonies) is ever-present here, suggesting that the pair remember what made them great, and that audiences will too.
The Holsapple-Stamey magic is most evident on tracks like the opening number, a cover of Family’s “My Friend the Sun”. From its opening bars, the beauty of Holsapple and Stamey’s vocals is fully recognizable, and the song features several beautiful melodic turns. Additionally, the dreamy summer psychedelics of “Santa Monica” and beautiful acoustic balladry of “Bird on the Wing” provide shining examples of why these two musicians work so well together and what they can achieve.