Stook – The Soundtrack to My Minneapolis

stook At the opposite end of the Americana map from Texas is Minnesota, with its Bob Dylans, its Paul Westerbergs, its Jayhawks, and its Golden Smogs; it’s always been a hotbed of rootsy American music.  Minneapolis even boasts a decent local alt country blog: sharkbitten.

The brand-spankin’ newest thing out of the frozen blue north, “The Soundtrack To My Minneapolis,” from Joshua Stuckey or “Stook,” as he’s known, displays lots of influences from all the above mentioned artists (and more). The results are one of the best new discs of the year so far.

“My Minneapolis” is as indie as they get, self-released and recorded in his producer’s basement with a host of local talent. It has a listener-friendly, laid back atmosphere that just seems to me would be hard not to like. The sound is early Wilco meets mid-to-late Green On Red with little sprinkles of Dylan, The Jayhawks, Tom Petty, etc., tossed in here and there. It’s mostly acoustic with a beat but there’s a couple of rocking electric tracks and even a bold solo piano foray into soul music territory.

Stook’s voice is somewhere between Tom Petty on the low end and Green On Red’s Dan Stuart on the high and it has a slightly shaky, unpolished quality that works beautifully with these songs.

If all that name dropping makes you think Stook sounds terribly derivative, well, that’s just the wrong way to look at it. He’s actually very nicely derivative.

Stook sounds less like he’s copping Dylan or Jeff Tweedy’s style than like he’s borrowing elements from them while searching around for his own sound.

And his own sound does get through. His songs are catchy, well written, and come across the speakers as honest and unpretentious. The arrangements are tight and well played, mostly guitar-driven, more folksy than country but he makes the alt country case with nice touches of organ, fiddle, and pedal steel.

And it all holds up real well to repeated listens, lots of them. “My Minneapolis” has been doing a lot of time in my player and I still keep on hitting that “play” button.

On both Stook’s website and his MySpace site, you can download three songs that pretty well cover the range of the CD. I highly recommend grabbing them all and giving them a few spins.

If you like what you hear, then you’ll like this disc. It’s chock full of the sound of promise and potential and you can sing along to it.

In short, it’s a great debut. 

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