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Look on The Bright Side
4 Out Of 5 Stars

As a long time fan of James Lee Stanley, I am always excited when he settles in and records a new CD of original songs. He has also kept himself busy, recording duet albums in the "All Wood And..." series, so far mining The Doors and Rolling Stones for source material, Yet it is his solo CD's that I wait for with the greatest hunger. On the new "The Apocaloptimist," he weaves the magic again.

Combining the word apocalypse with the word optimist, he expects the worst and hopes for the best. The character he introduces in the first song is one who lives and sleeps, rises and falls and falls again while "Living The Party Life." Our up and coming yuppie parties when he wins, parties when he loses, and no matter what the result, is ready to party away. PBR in hand, he's probably the best dressed and most annoying person in the room, but James still sings with some sympathy for the guy. Later he hangs out at a bar and sweetly dreams of being rescued at "Last Call."

The character's not a complete yay-hoo. After all, how could he be if he likes Beatles' songs? Coming from the same respectful background as the "All Wood And..." series, "Drive My Car" gives a folk rock makeover to a classic, complete with a tasty harmonica courtesy of Corky Siegel. Or, for that matter, would such a bad man surround himself with great players like Little Feat's Paul Barrere (on slide guitar for "Gypsies In The Hallway")? James' hero may be searching for the best, and this being a story with a happy ending, lets the lead actor fumble his way to understanding with nothing but the best musicianship lighting the way. He comes to a realization about family on "Here We Have My Father," and figures out that maybe it's time to treat his life as something more precious on the strolling "When You Get Right To It."

Coming to terms with when life deals you a decent hand, James' hero ain't such a bad guy in the end. He finds true love during "Any Other Way" and learns the deepest love when singing a "Lullaby for Chloe." James takes our "Apocaloptimist" guy from annoying chump to adoring father in less than an hour, James Lee Stanley is the kind of storyteller who can do this narrative masterfully, and I love when stories have happy endings. Especially when set to music this good.

One more thing: The album's artwork. "The Apocaloptimist's" cover art is poster worthy. It harkens back to the days when the amount of thought given to the entire album package covered the music and how the artwork related to the songs within.


   
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