In the Country of Kings may be the Eric Stuart Band’s best album to date. Too-long delayed, the album follows RevUp Records BombShellShocked and features a re-mixed version of the much-underplayed single “Paint the Town.”
In another fan-friendly addition, Eric re-released 1995’s “The Bottom Line” (He often opens concerts with this classic tune) as the first song on the album, yanking in the listener in from the first note.
Brooklyn isn’t usually a breeding ground for country music, but surely the patron saints of old-school blues, honky-tonk country and rock-and-roll got together and blessed Eric in his cradle. He mixes all three with amazing precision, standing out like a fine honey lager in a world of tepid, Coors Lite-Nickelback-type rock. In the County of Kings is anything but tepid.
These aren’t cheap ballads about tractors or cheatin’ women; ballads such as “Blind Man” and “Land of What Have Been” are so subtle and poignantly sad that they delve into the listener’s heart and pull out real emotions, nothing forced or clichéd, just simple, mournful truths.
At the same time, tracks such as “Shut You Up” and the aforementioned “Paint the Town” are so exuberant, they challenge the listener not to grab a beer and get on the dance floor. On “Paint the Town” Eric sings, “I’m a drive-in Romeo,” with both innocence and seduction, harkening back to more charming days without sounding at all dated.
Eric’s vocals are what really make this album unique. His earthy vibrato shivers with emotion, not falsely passionate like Celine Dion, but at once with quiet sorrow and at other times with grinning enthusiasm.
Even when telling an obnoxious girlfriend to hit the road on “The Last Word,” he takes immense pleasure in sending her on her way.
Eric is always a pleasure to listen to, but In the County of Kings is truly the loveliest jewel in his crown.