R.B. Stone has a life and a musical style that scream “Americana.” He started out in the corporate world as a very young man, but by age 23 he had sold everything except his truck, a shotgun, and his guitar and hit the road. Since then, he’s been a cowboy, a rodeo rider, a guide for hunting and fishing expeditions, and, always, he’s made music.
On Lonesome Traveler’s Blues, Stone is exactly the sort of singer you would expect with that sort of bio, with a slightly worn voice that is perfect for the blues with a Southern rock tinge that he plays. His sound is similar to the more mellow work of groups like Marshall Tucker, who have recorded some of his songs.
The first thing that struck me about this CD is the excellent harmonica work which enhances many of the songs. Blues and harmonica go together like fish and chips, and Stone knows his way around the harp.
The tone is mostly mellow, with even the rocking songs like “Mississippi Woman” having a laid-back quality, more like a head-nodding rhythm than a “get up and boogie” vibe. It’s the sort of music for listening to while driving at night, or while consuming barbeque and beer in a bar, or while hanging out with friends.
Within this mellow framework, there is a great deal of variety. “Fairweather Friends” is a very traditional acoustic blues song. “Ain’t Gonna Bring Me Down” kicks up the energy a notch and features some very tasty harmonica from Stone and slide guitar from band member Billy Crain.
“Born Into the Blues” gives us a Chicago-style number with the traditional autobiographical theme of being destined for a life of blues, smoothly delivered by Stone and his band. “The Devil’s Satisfied” takes another familiar blues theme, addiction, and delivers old-style blues with some fine chunky guitar work from another band member, Glen Kuykendall.
Of course there has to be a song about an enticing, dangerous woman, and that brings us to “Master of the Craft,” which features that smoking harmonica and masterful slide guitar again. This temptress tale is followed by the fine, rolling eight-bar blues of “Find Yourself a Fool,” which sounds a lot like Marshall Tucker in their prime, or Elvin Bishop or Tinsley Ellis, not bad company to be in.
My favorite song on the CD, though, leaves the traditional themes behind and sets itself firmly in modern reality, as it points out the advantages of a “Man With a Mini-Van.” I love the humor and the originality. “I can take ‘em to the grocery, I can take ‘em to the mall; if they got a bunch of kids, hell, I can take ‘em all…I’m a man, a man with a mini-van.”
Closing out the set is “Don’t Be Mean to Me, Baby,” with a funkier, modern blues sound.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable offering from an artist who deserves a wider audience. Get this CD for those times when you just want to relax and listen to a real singer/songwriter show what he and his band can do.