Steve Mayone and Kristina Stykos are second cousins, but they didn’t know that until a few years ago. They lived parallel lives: songwriters, producers, independent artists. In 2006 they met by chance when Steve was playing a gig in Vermont (where Kristina lives). Upon hearing Steve’s last name announced from the stage, Kristina introduced herself and they discovered their grandparents were siblings.
Making up for lost time, Steve and Kristina began playing music together, resulting in their new album Beautiful Blood. Recorded in their home studios (Kristina’s Pepperbox Studio and Steve’s Proofbox Studio), Beautiful Blood combines their different styles into one voice: Americana, folk/rock, ballads, blues, all woven into a single tapestry. With years of writing, performing and production experience under their belts, the making of Beautiful Blood was a joyful culmination of professional compatibility and family time.
Hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Steve Mayone is a songwriter and performer. As a writer, he’s had his songs and instrumentals placed in independent films and TV shows. Steve’s four solo CDs, Bedroom Rockstar, Unfortunate Son, Understories and Long Play Record have garnered excellent reviews. As a performer, Steve plays up and down the Northeast as a solo performer and accompanist, and has shared the stage with Levon Helm, Donald Fagan and Kate Taylor.
Kristina Stykos is a songwriter, musician, producer and recording engineer. She runs Pepperbox Studios, specializing in acoustic music, located at the end of a dirt road in Chelsea, Vermont. Kristina has released three solo albums; In The Earth’s Fading Light, Raven and the recently released Wyoming Territory. As a producer, she has created albums for fellow Vermont artists Bow Thayer, Robert Resnick, Wagtail and Erin McDermott, to name a few.
Singer-songwriter Paul Givant grew up on the disparate array of popular musical styles any late 20th century kid did. And in that mishmash of rock, punk, country, pop, rap, and all the rest, it was American Folk and Bluegrass music that rooted deepest, transforming him and his songs. Having played in various rock bands since early high school, in 2004 Paul decided it was time to take his growing batch of old style/new school folk songs, and build them into something greater, more ferocious. The songs were there, volatile, almost flammable, but if they were to attain their potential greatness, he was going to need help.
Through a series of chance meetings and twists of fate Paul hooked up with kindred spirits in Sebastian St. John, Derek O’Brien, Bill Clark, Derek Swenson, and John Kraus and in 2005 they laid the foundations of the band that would soon become Rose’s Pawn Shop. They combined the old style American sounds of Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams, the high energy punk of The Ramones, and The Pogues, and the melodic songwriting sensibilities of Elliott Smith and The Beatles, creating something musically unique.
The final ingredient was added one fateful day when Paul’s scorned ex-girlfriend/former band mate, in an act of revenge, stole the band’s instruments and gear and took them down to the local pawn shop. Priceless. Rose’s Pawn Shop was born…
In spring of 2006 after months of playing live and breaking ground around Los Angeles, the band recorded and released their debut album The Arsonist,which soon won critical praise from numerous print and online publications and they’ve been touring the United States almost non-stop ever since. On any given day you might find Rose’s Pawn Shop playing the Georgia Theatre in Athens, busking the streets of Jackson Square in New Orleans, opening for Jack White and The Raconteurs at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, ripping the walls off the club in their month long residency at the Parkside Lounge in New York City, or hitting the main stage of Floydfest in Virginia. On any given day they’re out there, growing their music, igniting their passion, and converting an ever increasing congregation of loyal fans.
More recently, Rose’s Pawn Shop entered the studio with renowned producer Ethan Allen (Patty Griffin, Counting Crows, Luscious Jackson) to record the second album, Dancing On the Gallows, on which Rose’s Pawn Shop rise to a new level of song craft and sound experimentation, while retaining the same fiery intensity and excitement of their early material.
With wisdom beyond their years, they fearlessly confront traditional country music themes of loss, lamentation, and redemption, while throwing in some drinking-songs for good measure. Sure, they’re borrowing pages from the books of Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Johnny Cash, but Rose’s Pawn Shop takes those pages, tears them up and sets them on fire with breakneck speed, bluegrass instrumentation, 3 and 4-part vocal harmonies and lyrics that’ll break your heart.
Whether it’s the dreamy snake-charm-thump of ‘Lone Rider’, the wistful whisky-soaked wisdom of ‘Down The Line’, the honky-tonk ruckus of ‘Funeral Pyre’, or the Gypsy-infused mandolin twang of ‘Reckoning’, Rose’s Pawn Shop will hook you. Like catfish from the creek, they’ll reel you in. And they won’t let you go.
Rose’s Pawn Shop is now: Paul Givant (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo), John Kraus (banjo, electric guitar, vocals) Tim Weed (fiddle, mandolin, vocals) Stephen Andrews (upright bass) and Christian Hogan (drums).
“Rose’s Pawn Shop makes a statement with their music. Life is hard and we’re gonna sing about it and get over it. Sometimes its upbeat, sometimes its slow and sorrowful. Regardless, they know their roots and that is remarkably bold.” KEXP, Seattle
“You can feel the whole barn rumble on Dancing On The Gallows … with booming bass drum, in your face fiddle,and runaway-train banjo… will, bluegrass fan or not, have the toe of your worn leather boot tapping in no time.” No Depression
After 30 plus years of making music you would be forgiven for thinking an artist would plateau at some point, happy to remain within familiar boundaries of the singer/songwriter, the man, voice and guitar. However , that is most assuredly not the case here !. Whatever preconceptions there are of what to expect ignore them, they will be way off the mark; I know mine were.
This is Martyn as people know him, never shy of confronting subjects as only he knows how to. On this creation we have suicide, redemption, grace, soul searching, love, sacrifice, confession and moral ire, all tackled and delivered in such a way that is completely engrossing. This is also Martyn as we have never heard him, dare I say some of this is as personal as any album has been. It is not an album that a 20 year old could have written, this has only been arrived at by a life lived with eyes, heart and soul wide open.
The production by Mason Neely is vast and has well and truly shredded any blueprints, if ever there were any, but with the core of the Martyn Joseph people know still firmly there. It’s vital, exhilarating and subtle, dynamic and serene. If Under Lemonade Skies, the last album, was a look into the box of possibilities of where his music could go, with Songs For The Coming Home that box has been fully delved into. On many tracks he has created amazing sound backdrops with the inclusion of strings, steel guitar, brass, cello and drums while not overwhelming the man and guitar.
Every track is worth its weight right from the opener ‘Crossing the Line’, with the discordant music that weaves the song and matches the confusion and grief behind a suicide and the fall out that results. The song is always on the edge of shuddering into chaos but the slow beautiful guitar and Martyns tender/ tough vocals hold it together, it’s a song that each listen takes you deeper and dares you to ask questions.
The album flows effortlessly along with songs like the uplifting Still a Lot of Love’ , with the familiar man, guitar and gorgeous community singing .
My personal highlight is the life affirming ‘Let Yourself’ an empowering and poignant song, with a cello carrying along Martyns vocals. This carries one of my favourite lines of the album, ‘And you can bring it on world, throw everything, cos in the end love wins big, and there are some of us who will not be lying down“.
Another highlight is the stark confessional ‘Falling from Grace’ with sublime guitar that harks back to ‘Turn Me Tender’ from the 2004 album Deep Blue. It tells of the pitfalls we all stumble into through life now and again, some fall deeper than others but with the end telling us there is hope .
The upbeat feel of ‘Feels Like This’ is a Bruce Cockburn like song which screams to be on every radio playlist, don’t be fooled by the bouncy singable rhythm though .
The re-worked Whoever it was … carries a different weight from the version from the 2003 album of the same name and at first glance at the track list I wondered if it had its place on this new album , simple answer is , absolutely. The voice maybe wearier and more measured and the guitar slower, but the impact is deeper .
The guitar/ drum laden provocative ‘No time For God’ demands to be played loud! , the rousing chorus will probably have the hackles rising on some followers .This appeals to my anarchic/ punk sensibilities and is a belter, you cannot help yourself sing along , it’s a proper Saturday night festival rant, and there is a great Wilco Johnson like harmonica solo screaming in the middle .
The key song that defines the album is the profound ‘Clara’ a classic Joseph storyteller song , you are drawn into this amazing panoramic image that unveils the primal power of music that transcends comprehension …but I will leave that there , it is to be discovered…..’Hope we all have a Clara’
Finally ,the turbulence returns with the hard hitting, contradictory and courageous ‘Archive’ Probably one of the finest and piercingly personal songs he has produced.
I have only scratched the surface , but there are 10 tracks on this album that have to be revealed to each listener without too many preconceptions , it’s a case of headphones on, or a long drive or whatever, and immerse yourself in this track by track.
Buckle up for one heck of a ride.
In short, this is a colossal creation.
Trish Roberts – 5* Review
“There are moments on this record that I will always treasure; small nuances of memory and recall that are both painful and joyous. The highlight for me is the song ‘Archive’. On long car journeys touring across Canada last year with poet, guru and friend Stewart Henderson we talked, and talked and went deeper and deeper. He started writing, and at some point on a prairie plain in Alberta he handed me some words on the back of an envelope. Months later in the early hours of the morning I took them to a microphone with no melodic agenda and just played and sang. The result was the first and only take that ended up on the album. Its me with my soul howling. Its what I like to do.” Martyn Joseph