Produced by Ben Harper and featuring both him and Dixie Chicks drummer Jimmy Paxson and bassist Mike Valerio, Best Of Luck is Florida-born, Asheville-based Stelling’s fourth album, his first with a producer and a fully collaborative creative and recording process, one that, following his decision to quit drinking, seeks to offer messages of resilience, endurance and hope, perfectly encapsulated in the infectiously upbeat, gospel-tinged ‘Trouble Don’t Follow Me’ where he sings “If you’re gonna shine like a diamond/You’ve gotta stretch like the sea” and how there’s always luck around the bend, while the opening, more quietly acoustic ‘Have To Do For Now’ is pitched in the transient moment between a past to be shed and an uncertain future, of letting go of memories that you want to hang on to but need to let go.
A similar musical mood informs the gentle trot of ‘Lucky Stars’, Harper adding pedal steel to a song about simply being grateful for what you’ve been given and the path that’s guided you to where you are. Things switch, however, on the defiant ‘Until I Die’ to take on a scratchy, urgent folk-blues drive, a see it through to the end number, be that steadfast love or work ethic.
Stelling has quite a reputation as a fingerpicking guitarist, and he eases into this with the waltzing, falsetto-sung ‘Made Up Your Mind’ with its shimmer of bells from Harper, the circling patterns of the following instrumental ‘Blue Bed’ and the nimble fret dancing of the folksy’ Something In Return’ with its not of finding realisation in “you told me all along, /if only I had listened before I got it wrong”.
It’s back then to electric slide bluesy stomp territory on the raw-throatedly sung ‘Hear Me Calling’ before closing up the set with the simpler, acoustic, keys-backed soulful healing themed swayer ‘Waiting Game’ and the lullabying, saloon piano accompanied love song ‘Goodnight Sweet Dreams’ with its affirmation of reliability and permanence. He has a four date tour of the UK lined up for April, you should get lucky.
Artist’s website: www.christopherpaulstelling.com
‘Trouble Don’t Follow Me’ – live: