The Stone Foxes: 'Twelve Spells'
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'Twelve Spells'
(Buff Records)
Out Now

Johnny Main

johnny main

the stone foxes

Originally from the sleepy foothills of California's Central Valley, The Stone Foxes were founded by Aaron Mort along with brothers Spence Koehler (guitarist) and Shannon Koehler (drums) after the trio met up at High School.

After high school, the boys attended San Francisco State University where they met up with guitarist/bass player Avi Vinocur and they discovered the common thread was their shared musical tastes. By 2005, the band had spent time working on their musical style and by this point they had already infused with country music influences alongside rock and blues.

The band released their self-titled debut album in 2008 which was followed in 2010 by the 'Bears & Bulls' album, the latter of which garnered airplay on local and national radio stations as well as gifting the band their first chart success with the single 'Stomp'.

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Shortly before heading out on tour in 2011 it was decided that a keyboard player was needed, so Elliott Peltzman joined the line up ostensibly for a couple of months but he ended up becoming a permanent member of the band. In April 2011 the band opened for Cage The Elephant and Grammy award winners The Black Keys at Mesa Amphitheatre in Phoenix, Arizona whilst their cover of Slim Harpo's 'I'm A King Bee' was featured in the national ad campaign for Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey.

By 2013 they had recorded and released their 'Small Fires' album, which once again was getting good exposure. By this point Vinocur had exited the band and they were on the look out for a replacement when they happened upon an old school friend of Shannon Koehler by the name of Brian Bakalian (who played drums, bass and guitar) who subsequently agreed to join the line up. Out of the blue, an old friend of the band by the name of Vince Dewald turned up to the rehearsal studio one day for a jam and walked away at the end of the session with a role in the band. The line up was enlarged further when an old band mate of Dewald's Ben Andrews, who had just moved back into town, was offered the chance to join the band to which he didn't hesitate.

With the line up finally settled down once again, the band released 'Twelve Spells' in 2015 and this album has only recently been getting played here at MetalTalk Towers after the band's recent successful UK tour and I have to say that my only regret is not getting hold of this disc earlier!

The thirteen tracks featured have a variety of styles showing just how flexible this rock n' roll ensemble are. An early favourite of mine was 'This Town' which is a solid rocker with drummer Shannon Koehler earnestly punching out the beat until the mid section where the keyboards, courtesy of Elliott Peltzman, come to the fore (almost) giving it an Rolling Stones feel to it at times. The songs helped on its way by an easy to remember chorus and really, what's not to like?

Almost mid-way through the album is 'She Said Riot' which is a more subtle track but still generates a fair amount of rocking vibes. The track owes something of a debt to Led Zeppelin's classic 'Rock And Roll' as far as the guitar and keyboard riffs are concerned whilst Shannon Koehler once again punches out of simple but solid beat making this a rather enjoyable piece.

'Cold Like A Killer' on the other hand is a simple mix of voice and guitar with just the merest hint of keyboards at the start. There's vulnerability in the singer's voice which makes a change from some of the more self assured performances elsewhere other tracks. The simple nature of the song is backed up with an equally simple chorus makes this a curious but ultimately enjoyable track. There's another simple chorus included on 'It Ain't Nothing' too, which develops into a slow and steady track after the intro's been negotiated. Once again it's Shannon Koehler who leads the way with something of an awkward (or should that be "complex") drum pattern giving the track a distinctive feel whilst the vocals are a more upbeat performance. It's not hard to sing-along to this after only a couple of listens such is the repetitive nature of the lyrics but there's no complaints from me on that score, simply an observation.

'N.Y.T. (New York Talk)' follows with it's peculiar sounding guitar riff and uneven drum beat once again at the top of the track but it soon turns into a rather upbeat number. Vocally it's a good overall performance as they go from a normal register to really stretching to reach some high notes, the latter of which is something of a hit and miss affair.

Whilst 'Jericho' slows the pace right down with an almost bluesy number with the piano and acoustic guitar leading the way. There's some almost gospel sounding backing vocals which give this track a unique sound but again it's an uneven mix of musical parts requiring a certain amount of concentration from the listener.

There's a country feel about 'My Place' with the electric guitar which is used sparingly but to good effect, over which the keyboard sound is laid. Without a doubt, this is a firm favourite of mine even though the lyrical content is a bit on the bleak side. The guitar solo is subtle and suits this song perfectly as the track finally reaches a crescendo after the slow build up.

Album closer 'Count Me As One' continues the country feel with a soft acoustic guitar passage joined by a passionate vocal performance. There's vulnerability in the voice here and the song leaves you hanging somewhat at its sudden conclusion making this a rather downbeat end to an interesting album.

You can see The Stone Foxes live here:
Saturday 30th April – Sunday 1st May – Moonstone Music Festival, Central Florida Fairgrounds & Exposition Park, Orlando
Friday 6th May – The Viper Room, West Hollywood
Saturday 7th May – The Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix
Thursday 16th June – Cozmic, Eugene
Saturday 18th June – JazzBones, Tacoma

'Twelve Spells' Tracklisting:
Eye For Love
I Want To Be You
This Town
Cold Like A Killer
She Said Riot
Dying Star
It Ain't Nothin'
N.Y.T. (New York Talk)
My Place
Greasin Up The Doorman
Count Me As One

The Stone Foxes are:
Ben Andrews – Guitar/Violin
Brian Bakalian – Drums
Vince Dewald – Bass Guitar/Vocals
Shannon Koehler – Drums/Vocals/Harmonica
Spence Koehler – Guitar/Vocals
Elliott Peltzman – Keyboards/Vocals

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