Stone Axe Chase Dragons Back to the Golden Years

One could sit for hours, either with one’s self or with others amenable to such a situation, and argue back and forth whether or not Port Orchard, Washington, classic rockers Stone Axe fall under the ever-expanding banner of stoner rock or not, but then you’d entirely miss the point. On the band’s second album, II (Music Abuse Records), they remind us that it’s not about genre or subgenre, not about classification, about overthinking it, about analysis unto death, but about getting together with friends, having a good time, and the enduring spirit of rock and roll.

To affect this revelation of purpose, multi-instrumentalist T. Dallas Reed and vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff (joined here part-time by bassist Mike DuPont and drummer Mykey Haslip) have made some of the least pretentious music ever to grace the eardrums of man. Stone Axe’s II oozes a brand of organic sincerity that’s generally either subservient to corporate shilling or undercut by ironic snickers, and they do it for the duration of the record and without wavering. Their warm, ultra ‘70s-styled rock is so specific in its mission that to even call out Thin Lizzy, Free, Grand Funk and any number of the other (of course Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin) foundational acts from whom they take inspiration seems superfluous. It matters so much less where this music comes from than how it makes you feel while listening.

Like summer.

Stone Axe is entirely self-contained. Reed, in addition to handling the substantial riffs that occur throughout, also recorded II, and even appears twice on lead vocals, at the end of each “program” (a nod to your 8-tracks) with the Phil Lynott parade “Those Were the Golden Years” and the mellotron/Hammond-infused semi-ballad “Turned to Stone.” For his own contributions, Brinkerhoff is versatile, energetic and passionate in the classic rock sense. As Reed gives an excellent Iommi-style solo to opener “Old Soul,” it’s Brinkerhoff’s performance that really sets the tone for the album to follow, and although there are plenty of moments on II where it’s just the two players, Stone Axe doesn’t have the limited feel that some recording projects (acknowledging they do play live with a complete lineup) have where a full band isn’t involved – a credit to Reed’s production.

“We Know it’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Old Soul,” and “Those Were the Golden Years” explain Stone Axe’s philosophy of rock as the foundation for existence, and though II doesn’t really cover any new ground there, it would be antithetical to the whole point of the band if it did. Understand, Reed, Brinkerhoff and the rest of the parties involved in Stone Axe are not trying to reinvent the wheel, they’re doing their very best to keep it round in a world that has decided it would be better squared off. Their love of the classic rock formula is what’s given this band life. And that’s why you listen. It’s not about discovery of uncharted ground, but about admiring the architecture that already exists. Stone Axe have made II a diverse listen in terms of what’s gone into it (organ, acoustics, different players, moods and vibes), but the familiarity you immediately have with what you’re hearing is what’s going to keep you coming back.

And you, if you’ve ever heard a ‘70s groove and thought either “Why can’t life be like this all the time?” or “I was born too late,” will indeed keep coming back. II’s richness is deceptive, given the relative structural simplicity of the material, but the songs are memorable on top of being catchy and those with a love of rock will find they satisfy an impulse on an almost animalistic level. On the inevitable repeat listens, don’t be surprised if you succumb further to the charm of II and find yourself more and more with songs like “Live for the Day” and “Ain’t Gonna Miss It” in heavy rotation on the mental jukebox. Stone Axe specialize in the kind of stuff that stays with you.

Stone Axe on MySpace

Music Abuse Records

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One Response to “Stone Axe Chase Dragons Back to the Golden Years”

  1. JohnArz says:

    “Understand, Reed, Brinkerhoff and the rest of the parties involved in Stone Axe are not trying to reinvent the wheel, they’re doing their very best to keep it round in a world that has decided it would be better squared off.”

    Genius line.

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