Roots music is often strictly categorized by genre and the purist fans of each style like it that way. Those who perform it stay within those pre-drawn lines most of the time as well. Blues bands don’t normally write folk or country songs and Western Swing bands seldom play Celtic music. This works well enough and makes booking festivals easier but can be restrictive for those who are into more than one style and who can pick up on the common ground these styles share. Australian band Stormcellar lives entirely on that bit of real estate and makes music that crosses lines without apology. Its new album, Defiance, shows a happy disregard for the limitations of musical Puritans and easily mixes blues, country, folk, and other influences into a sound focused on brilliant songwriting and playing rather than one that colors inside all the lines.
If you only heard the opening track, “Hard Rock,” you might think this is a great-sounding Stones-influenced blues/rock band and, for that moment, you would be right. The next cut, however, “Julie,” shifts gears completely and comes across like the best band from late-80s Austin, TX you were never cool enough to find. These guys clearly have fun mixing up all the music that turns them on and that sensibility makes Defiance a whole lot more compelling to listen to than if it was just a dozen songs in the same bag. It seems that a whole lot of people Down Under feel the same way, as Defiance is the third Stormcellar release to hit #1 on the Australian Blues & Roots Chart.
Other highlights on this set include the delicate “Like A Stone” and the houserocking “Color My World” but every song here is worth your time. Stormcellar is a band that has done one of the hardest tricks of all, that being making simple roots music with individuality and modern appeal. This isn’t a history-lesson outfit obsessed with recreating one particular place and time. It’s a 21st Century group that makes new music while standing on old shoulders.
Highly recommended. You should probably stop reading and go buy this record. Check out Stormceller on their WEBSITE.
-Review by Mike O’Cull, independent music journalist. www.mikeocull.com