Here are the Liner Notes I Wrote for the Deluxe Edition of Stone Axe II

I’d like to review the new Ripple Music deluxe edition of Stone Axe II, the second album from the Tony Reed-led trad rockers, but it’s kind of a grey area, in that I wrote the liner notes for it. Plus, I already reviewed the album when it came out originally in 2010. In an effort to still help promote the album, which is a product I believe to be both enjoyable on a personal level and of a quality that justifies Ripple‘s reverent treatment of it, I’ve decided to post (with permission) the liner notes for you to check out if you’re so inclined.

On a side note, congrats to Tony Reed on the announcement today of his signing on with LACE Music Products. I’m looking forward to Stone Axe‘s set of Free covers at the London Desertfest and many boozy nights self-reminiscing and singing along to the forthcoming Captured Live! Roadburn Festival 2011. In the meantime, here are those Stone Axe II notes:

“It’s what the kids are doing now that school is over
The sweat of summer’s love has made the winter sober
And the scene this awful mindless short attention
Has left the teenage dream forever in detention”
–“We Know it’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll”

If you’ve picked up this reissue of Stone Axe II, chances are you already know the deal. This album was originally released in March 2010 on the band’s own Music Abuse Records, and Ripple Music has picked it up to give it a similar deluxe treatment as that which the first, self-titled Stone Axe got a little while back. This time you get a second disc of compilation material – songs that were only on vinyl previously or included on split or other comps. You know Stone Axe have had a few. Give it another year or two and they’ll be ready for a box set.

They’re prolific, is what I’m trying to say, but there’s no question that Stone Axe II captured something special to tape and something that goes to the very heart of the band’s purpose. Led by multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer T. Dallas Reed – who’s joined by vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff, drummer Mykey Haslip and bassist Mike DuPont – Stone Axe call themselves “Seventies Rock Preservationists,” and in that, they’re not wrong. But it goes beyond just the heavy riffing or references to bands like Free, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. What Stone Axe are saving isn’t just the music, but the freedom of spirit that led to its creation in the first place.

Reed is at the center of the experience. He ends each of the album’s two programs with a lead vocal, and mans most of II’s instruments, with part-time contributions from Haslip and DuPont, who fit in smoothly to their songs and their roles without a hiccup in the overall flow. But Brinkerhoff’s boozy arrogance is essential to Stone Axe’s classic feel as well. Songs like “Chasing Dragons,” “We Know it’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Ain’t Gonna Miss It” are as much Brinkerhoff’s as they are Reed’s, and what he gives them in addition to verbalization is a sense of humanity and personality that’s long since forgotten in modern, digitized, corporate rock.

True to form, before the dust even began to think about settling on Stone Axe II, the band had another release under their belts. The June 2010 split with weedian Brooklyn punkers Mighty High would be Stone Axe’s first collaboration with Ripple Music, and the formation of the relationship that would later find Reed doing engineering work for the label, including helming the 2010 remaster of Poobah’s lost classic, Let Me In, from 1972. The band also found time to hit the road supporting doom metal legends Saint Vitus just as the Mighty High split was being issued, and proceeded to bide their time and prepare for a Spring 2011 European tour that included a slot at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands in April.

Mos Generator, Reed’s prior outfit (whose self-titled has coincidentally also been reissued on Ripple), had played Roadburn a few years earlier, but it was Stone Axe’s first time there, and they killed. Their energy and the sincerity in what they do and their love of the form in which they work came through the speakers even louder than DuPont’s bass, which was plenty loud. For those that saw them, they were a highlight of the fest, and then, in the tradition of the true rock and roll journeymen, they were gone, back on tour for a couple more dates with British trio Stubb. And because they never seem to be able to hit the road without, there was some more new vinyl as well: This time a four-way split called Heavy Ripples, on which Stone Axe teamed with UK rockers Grifter as well as Mighty High and Southern-minded New Englanders, Sun Gods in Exile.

At the same time, Ripple’s deluxe version of Stone Axe dropped and – thanks I’m sure in no small part to the eloquence and minimal spelling errors contained in its liner notes (sorry, Dru) – was a huge success and chance for those who caught onto the band later to get their hands on their first offering. Shortly after, Stone Axe filmed a show in Texas for a live DVD and then shot up to Las Vegas for a slot at the second Doom in June Fest alongside the likes of Wino and Solitude Aeturnus, and on July 2, 2011, Stone Axe played the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington, supporting Rush on the side stage.

A couple months without a vinyl would seem like a slowdown, but Reed kept busy nonetheless, recording the first Saint Vitus full-length in 17 years, mixing Stubb’s album, recording with Texas rockers Blood of the Sun and releasing a debut 7” from psychedelic side-project, HeavyPink. All the while, Stone Axe were getting ready to release a split 12” with German stoner heavies Wight, comprised on their side of three freeform jams that are also included on the second disc of this release, and saving up cash to hit up Europe again in 2012 with Stubb and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight.

As for what the rest of 2012 and beyond will bring, who knows. There’s that Texas DVD, and rumor has it their Roadburn set was recorded and came out pretty well. Whatever comes next, the safe bet, though, is that Stone Axe will press forward in their quest to remind everyone what life was like before rock music needed “saving.” With the constantly productive nature of the band and the particular chemistry that has developed in the live setting between not just Reed and Brinkerhoff, but Haslip and DuPont as well, Stone Axe could go anywhere from here and still maintain the honesty and the spirit of tribute that drives them.

Until then, please enjoy this deluxe edition of Stone Axe II and the unabashed, unashamed love of rock and roll it represents.

JJ Koczan

December 2011

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One Response to “Here are the Liner Notes I Wrote for the Deluxe Edition of Stone Axe II

  1. RalphSnart says:

    I’m more into Stone Axe all the time. This album sounds great in my car, I’ll tell you that much.

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