Charleston outfit Big Stoner Creek’s new self-titled album combines genres easily, like taking a breath. The veteran band mixes bluegrass, country and rock on the album, breezing through ten tracks of buoyant rhythms, tasty fiddle and mandolin and jangling guitars.
It’s the sound of a group that’s comfortable in their own skin, which shouldn’t be a surprise since the core of the band, singer/guitarist George Fox, guitarist Jesse Prichard and bassist Jamie Crisp, first got together back in the early ’90s. Back in those days, the band would pack in more than 300 shows a year, sharing the stage with Hootie & The Blowfish, Edwin McCain, Leftover Salmon, Guy Clark and many more. They parted ways for a while at the turn of the millennium but reunited in 2017.
“I just thought it was going to be a good chance to get together with friends, and play some music and whoop it up a little bit,” Fox said of the reunion. “But things kind of clicked. One thing led to another, and we just kept doing more and more shows together. And then, as the quarantine hit, I found myself not spending any time out and about, so I started writing more than I had. And then I decided we had enough stuff that warranted getting back in the studio.”
The band added Fox’s son Jeremiah on drums and Don Lewis on fiddle and mandolin, and quickly found that their lines of musical communication were still open despite their years apart.
“In the ’90s, we played 1,800 gigs together,” Fox said. “The bass player and the guitar player and I have played so many times together that it’s just this natural chemistry. And then we brought my son into the mix on drums. Both the guitar player and Jamie held him in their hands when he was a week old. So the music came very natural to him, and we realized we still have that spark that’s really hard to define. It’s just a very natural thing.”
As for Big Stoner Creek’s mix of musical styles, Fox said that came naturally as well.
“It was never something we set out to do,” he said. “It was a naturally occurring thing. Instead of trying to say, ‘Hey, let’s write a bluegrass song,’ or ‘Hey let’s write a country song,’ or ‘Hey, let’s write a rock ‘n’ roll song,’ we just did it. I think each song has parts of that influence of all of those things all at the same time. It’s organic. We’re not a jam band, but we like to jam within the structure of a song.”
The band recorded the album at Fairweather Studio on James Island, with studio owner Omar Colon engineering and Josh Roberts (of Josh Roberts & The Hinges) producing.
“Omar has created a very relaxed and homey type of atmosphere in that studio,” Fox said. “It feels like you’re really walking into somebody’s house to record. It’s like a little country bungalow with a big screened in front porch. Josh came in and did the producing on it. We liked his energy and his thoughts and his ability to keep us focused.”
In fact, the band was so comfortable at Fairweather Studio that they were able to record most of the album on the spot.
“I’m not going to say it was all live, but the majority of that record was recorded live in the studio with us going back and fixing vocals or adding a little touch here or there,” Fox said. “But the core of the music was created in the moment in the studio, captured in a very short period of time, and I think that adds to the energy that makes it feel like it’s actually people in a room playing music together.”
Now that the album is out, Fox says that Big Stoner Creek is anxious to play some shows, though he’s quick to add that the days of piling into a Ford Econoline van and playing 300 shows are over.
“We want to try to be a little smarter in our work and more selective,” he said.
And don’t be surprised if the band has at least a couple more studio albums in them, as well.
“I didn’t stop writing songs because Big Stoner Creek wasn’t playing together,” Fox said. “So we’ve got material that we never got to, and we’ve got new material that we’re playing that hasn’t been recorded. So my goal is to record as much as possible between now and when I can’t do it anymore.”
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