Artist: James Lee Stanley
Album: Alive At Last - In Philadelphia
Label: Beachwood Recordings
Release Date: 09/09/2016
In his 40 plus year career, James Lee Stanley has never attained household name status like some better known contemporaries who attained a more successful status about the same time. Regardless, his penchant for unassuming acoustic melodies of a folk-like persuasion has made him a constant on the club and coffeehouse circuit and a favorite of knowing admirers all at the same time. Recent releases featuring re-imagined, stripped-down versions on songs by the Doors and the Rolling Stones have helped him etch his niche even further, and a regular partnership with other relaxed folkies — Monkee Peter Tork in particular — has given him cause to share the spotlight.
It’s appropriate then that his latest release, Alive At Last – In Philadelphia, offers opportunity to catch up, thanks to a casual rehash of 14 songs, most replayed with spoken introductions and a breezy, bare bones delivery. Stanley’s songs tend to glide with an easy sway, as evidenced by “Going Back To Memphis” and his lilting take on the Beatles’ “Drive My Car.” However, Stanley’s also a master balladeer as well, and his ability to turn the Stones’ disco-driven “Miss You” into a sublime blend of nuance and nostalgia is well worth the price of admission all by itself.
His unassuming saunter and the studio’s spontaneous setting finds Alive At Last – In Philadelphia coming across more like an authorized bootleg than the official concert collection its title portends, but somehow that befits Stanley’s general demeanor regardless. Indeed, Alive At Last may be just what the faithful have been waiting for.
– Lee Zimmerman