While Ian Siegal is a name new to us here at Blabber’n’Smoke, we were intrigued when this album popped in for review and we listened to the opening song. We’re suckers for a sweet and sweaty mixture of R’n’B, gospel and Southern swampy gumbo music and this just fitted the bill. The album opens strongly with Working On A Building, not the Charlie Feathers’ song of the same name, but a wonderfully loose limbed rumble with gospel roots, sounding for all the world like Ry Cooder playing with The Staples Singers. Hoodoo harmonica and snakelike slide guitars underpin the myriad testifying voices which dart in and out, harmonising and interjecting and giving the song a “live” feel as if the band were playing at a gospel tent revival.
Hand In Hand walks a similar path with Shemekia Copeland’s guest appearance adding to comparisons to The Staples especially as the song is a hymn to brother and sisterhood, echoing their civil rights anthems. Staying with those gospel roots, Monday Saw, a percussive field holler is a more primitive cousin to Working On A Building while Gathering Deep dials it down somewhat while retaining a gospel feel with a fine and spare Appalachian touch to it.
Aside from the sermonising, Siegal delivers some excellent songs which range from straight forward acoustic blues (on Holler) and singer/songwriter introspections (Onwards And Upwards and This Heart) to the scabrous I’m The Shit – an excellent acoustic vamp which actually sounds as if Tom Waits and Cab Calloway were having fun together, singing about, well, shit. Siegal also tosses in a version of the weird and spooky Leon Payne song Psycho, delivering its murderous psychodrama with a delicious sense of the macabre while K.K.’s Blues (written by Jimbo Mathus who is present throughout the album) rivals the best of Willy Vlautin’s dirty realism. Overall, Stone By Stone, with its slippery and sinewy recast of classic roots and blues is a brilliant listen.