Strong alt-country with a positive view on life’s ups and downs.
Canadian Carleton Stone has made this solo record after a 2017 album with the group Paper Cities and three solo albums before that. It is strong musically with many good melodies and could be classified as that thread of alt-country which is reminiscent of Ryan Adams, Wilco and Jesse Malin. However, Stone differs from these three with more use of pedal steel than they generally use and so the album has a definite country feel.
The upbeat nature of the music, which is slightly Beatles-like at times, contrasts with the rather angsty lyrics, although Stone says that he writes about “the ups and downs that life throws at you, and being able to move forward in a positive way when things don’t work out the way you thought they would”. He acknowledges that the touring life of a musician can be hard but is pleased to be able to go from town to town with just his acoustic guitar “playing songs for people who don’t know my music yet”.
The title track ‘Papercut’ is a great way to start the record with its catchy tune and its frustrated tale of sitting in a traffic jam and contemplating: “when I look back on my life it feels just like a papercut”. In ‘Monte Carlo’ Stone ponders a break-up, amongst other things, while driving his dad’s Monte Carlo car. Here, as in other tracks, piano and sax are used to add colour to the music. In ‘House In The Hills’, which sounds like a British eighties hit with synth, there is a hint of troubles in his life; “I just wanna fall asleep without using my pills”.
Some of the more memorable lyrics are simpler. In the rockier ‘Big Ego’, which chugs along very nicely, he confesses “I’ve got a big ego, it gets me out of bed”. ‘WTF’ which is based around that well-known expression of exasperation/amazement has some corny rhymes which actually work well including this one, with its surprising mention of Newton’s Third Law: “Every action has an opposite reaction/ We were just two opposites attracting”.
‘Hard Day’s Work’ is interesting, coming from his experience of being in a blue-collar family and having to work in plumbing and heating for his dad when a teenager. It is a song of respect for the contribution that blue-collar workers make to society with the wise words: “the foundation of this town is a poor man’s hard day’s work”
Stone writes that this is a “collection of songs that I feel really good about” and he has every right to be pleased with them.