JOHN CEE STANNARD & BLUE HORIZON – Stone Cold Sober (Cast Iron CIRCD 025)

JOHN CEE STANNARD BLUE HORIZON Stone Cold SoberStone Cold Sober kicks off like a great party album with ‘I Don’t Want You Anymore’, a stomping old-timey blues. Like most of the album it’s written by John Cee Stannard, with his voice and guitar supported by Mike Baker on second guitar and Howard Birchmore’s harmonica which is such a big part of the band’s sound.

Of course, there’s more too it than that. At number three is ‘The Story’, a rather more heavyweight song. It could have been waltzed up into a country song or pared down to a simple singer-songwriter piece but John Cee sticks to the blues. The song is augmented by Andy Crowdy’s bass and Julian Bown’s drum and a perfectly gauged fiddle line by Simon Mayor. ‘So Long’ is long; a slow, languid blues that gives everyone the chance to show off – including Mayor again – with Birchmore’s harp wailing over the top. John likes to include an authentic track and here it’s Blind Blake’s ‘Lead Hearted Blues’, originally recorded in 1928. Unless you know that you’d take if for a contemporary of the other eleven tracks.

There is plenty of fun, of course. ‘Rum Ol’ Do’ is the sort of blues that only an Englishman could write – more four-ale bar than saloon – and the title track follows it up neatly with Mayor switching to mandolin. There’s a sort of serious message, though – “I’d rather be smashed to pieces than stone cold sober with you”. There is some of the defiance of Bus Depot Blues here but this is the deep down blues.

Dai Jeffries

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