Cracking the egg that is Ben Stalets is two yolks; The first is a Country tinged, folk soaked, lyrically driven song, The second is a sweaty, rock n’ roll rooted performance. However you prefer it, you’ll end up full.
Ben’s medley of soundscape allows him to open for a very diverse collection of critically acclaimed acts, such as; Valerie June, Whitey Morgan, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Local H, and Icarus Account. He’s also been a favorite at plenty of music festivals, among them, 2015’s Nelsonville Music Festival.
With releasing his newest album and stab at classifying his genre of music; Country Midwestern, and a month-long tour, Ben has had a big end to 2015. With the start of 2016, Ben is looking to show just how appropriate his latest album’s title is by kicking off January with a Midwestern tour. With an angle on his music based loosely on that of a Pot Roast as opposed to a drive thru meal – he may not be your next American Idol, but he’s got a Hank Williams howl and deep-rooted, sturdy fingerpicking style that make you feel like he’s telling tales as old as time.
A former honky tonk acolyte, Adam Lee’s newest album, 'Sincerely, Me,' turns traditionalism on its head. It’s a varied and engaging collection, criss-crossing genre and influence and bringing to mind artists such as Cory Branan, Justin Townes Earle, or John Moreland.
In support of the release he's spent much of the past year on the road. He completed another European tour and played shows with Dave Alvin, Lucero, and Frank Turner.
Prior to landing in Chicago, Lee fronted Kansas City-based Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company, a scrappy alt-country outfit with traditionalist leanings. His time in the honky tonks paid off; he was nominated for Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Awards and found homes for his country songs in writer/director Kevin Smith’s Red State and TUSK.
Following these successes, he moved to Chicago after being offered a leading role in the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet, under the musical direction of Chuck Mead. It was at this point he began writing and recording the songs that make up ‘Sincerely, Me,’
All told, ‘Sincerely, Me’ is a strong and diverse debut. Roots-rock songwriter Justin Wells sums up this sentiment. “Somebody’s gonna file this album under Americana, but that's because Adam Lee isn't a genre... it nods at several American musics without knowing the meaning of derivative.”
A departure indeed, but that’s something he’s used to. The son of an Air Force officer, Adam Lee spent much of his youth in transit. Music, however, was a constant, and a childhood spent moving state to state, and sometimes country to country, prepared him for a life traveling on the road. “I grew up saying goodbye,” he says, “and it teaches you to appreciate what’s on the horizon.”
Initially writing folk and alt-country, he fronted Kansas City-based Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company. Their first album ‘Ghostly Fires’ was released in 2008. The band committed to a more traditional country and western sound for their second album, ‘When the Spirits Move Me’ and logged many miles supporting the 2010 release. Lee’s time in the honky tonks paid off; he was nominated for one of Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Awards and found homes for his country songs in feature films (writer/director Kevin Smith’s Red State and TUSK).
He’d soon found a new home for himself as well — on the Broadway stage. In 2013 he moved to Chicago after being offered a leading role in the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet, under the musical direction of Chuck Mead.
Lee’s wanderlust informed his writing as well, and he soon began crafting songs not tied to a style, but to a feeling. They make up a large portion of the material on ‘Sincerely, Me,’ his first solo album. “I just tried to put the best songs I’d written on the new record, the songs that moved me most, regardless of genre.” In woodshedding the new material he spent much of the past year on the road. He played shows with Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan. He completed his second European tour. He kept writing and soon, he found himself in the open-ended world of Americana.
His mutability is readily apparent throughout ‘Sincerely, Me,’ and he continually plays with genre, style, and influence. ’Sing With Me,’ is a raucous, punk inflected anthem, working to reconcile youthful and rebellious optimism with sobering adult realities. This song leads directly into ‘Patrick’ a fatalistic and tragic tale of two brothers, laid upon a sparse backdrop of Irish-styled fiddle and banjo.
The most country song of the collection, ‘What I Need,’ comes across more tragedy than two step, a deceptively upbeat confessional, uncluttered from all the smoke and neon. Underscored with upright bass and saloon-style piano Lee sings “I’m patient, and I’m thoughtful, and really, really insecure/ but I’ve found ways to make it worse.”
All told, ‘Sincerely, Me’ is a strong and diverse debut, a record reminiscent of a life spent in no one place in particular. Roots-rock songwriter Justin Wells sums up this sentiment. “Somebody’s gonna file this album under Americana, but that's because Adam Lee isn't a genre… it nods at several American musics without knowing the meaning of derivative.” In that context, the album title could be taken a different way. ‘Sincerely, Me’ is Adam Lee at his most honest, his most vulnerable, and ultimately, his most engaged. A restless mind put at ease not by comfort or consistency, but by forward momentum. Adam Lee is heading somewhere, and even if we’re not quite sure of his next stop, we’re happy to come along.