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For the past few years, alternative/college rock icon Chris Stamey spent most of his time touring with tribute band Big Star’s 3rd, creating the magnificent new standards collection New Songs For the 20th Century, teaming up with old pal and dB’s bandmate Peter Holsapple for their third duo LP together, and writing his memoir A Spy in the House of Loud – any new music in the jangle/power pop vein for which he’s best known rested on the backburner. For his latest album The Great Escape, however, Stamey slips on the classic suit for the first time since 2015 – but adorns it with a bolo tie. With plenty of once and future bandmates in tow, Stamey adds a dash of country flavoring to his finely crafted pop tunes – bits of banjo, dobro, and, most prominently, pedal steel pop up everywhere, giving the tracks a warm and earthy feel. He sounds relaxed and confident here, treading familiar ground in his new boots, whether it’s on sparkling rockers (“The Catherine’s Wheel,” “I Will Try,” the title tune) or shimmering ballads (“Dear Friend,” “The Sweetheart of the Video,” “(A Prisoner of This ) Hopeless Love”), essaying a superb take of Alex Chilton’s “She Might Look My Way” and alternating versions of “Back in New York” to flex his muscles. It’s clear that he’s isn’t revisiting his classic sound out of resignation – between the country accents and the energized performances, Stamey sounds refreshed and reinvigorated on The Great Escape.
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