In this portion of ATC’s Indie Spotlight, we’ll be reviewing the Stephanie Eason Band’s first full-length studio album, The Red Letter Days. Find out what we think about the album in our Indie Spotlight!
The album starts off with the upbeat “Charlotte to Phoenix” which finds Stephanie telling the story of a couple who wants to take a plunge and hit the open road from Charlotte to Phoenix to get away from their town. Stephanie provides a fantastic vocal performance that is never overshadowed by the production, which is filled with steel, mandolin, and guitars that keep its sound strictly country. In fact, the production throughout the record stays strictly country and that could be difficult to do in this generation of country music because some of it really isn’t country.
The album continues with the pop-country tune “It Ain’t Love” which talks about how love is all about being physical and not all about the romantic gestures like writing poems or giving someone flowers. The production features a prominent banjo line backed by the ever-present steel guitar. The band keeps with the country-pop production on songs like “How to Start a Fire” as well as one of the album’s highlights, “Holdin’ On.” The latter of which is a song about a woman who is engaged to a man that she doesn’t feel is the “one,” but instead finds her soul mate in a different guy which she’s holding on to.
One of the most interesting productions comes from the song “Endlessly” which possesses a very dark, mellow, bluesy production that’s filled with the usual Stephanie Eason Band instruments – mandolin, steel, and bass – mixed with a very subdued drum beat that sounds amazing on the ears. “He Don’t Know” also features an interesting production that incorporates traditional country sounds with a hint of bluegrass that results in a fantastic sounding record that could’ve been heard during the traditional country movement of the 1990’s.
The album’s strongest song is the ballad “My Heart Won’t Leave Me Alone.” Everything from the dark production to the outstanding emotion-filled vocal performance from Stephanie, the best on the album, results in one heck of a song. The song, of course, would be nothing without the incredible songwriting skills of Stan Hitson, who also wrote or co-wrote five other songs, who brings the story of how a person feels after a sudden break up to life with such brilliance.
Lead singer Stephanie Eason also shows off her songwriting skills on songs like “Holdin’ On” as well as the charming “Happy Ever After,” which talks about how the stories in fairytales we all grew up with never happen in real life, but we do all get our “happy ever after” in different ways. I’ve already raved about the production on “He Don’t Know,” but the songwriting by Eason is also something that should be mentioned because she does an excellent job at telling the story of a girl who’s in love with her best friend but is afraid to tell him, fearing that he won’t return her love.
The only time the group strays away from their country sounds is on the rocker “Be Careful What You Ask For” which Stephanie shares vocals with songwriter Stan Hitson in the telling of the story about a husband who gets caught cheating in a local bar. This song provides Stephanie the opportunity to show off her sassy side as she gets to play the wife who confronts the girl that is knowingly getting “lovey-dovey” with a married man. This song also provides the band the opportunity to show a different side to them and proves to listeners that they aren’t one-dimensional when it comes to their tastes in music.
From the excellent vocal performances from Eason to the outstanding production, this album is an outstanding representation of who the Stephanie Eason Band is. After listening to this record, there’s no doubt that the band is intent on sticking to their country roots and isn’t afraid to include influences from bluegrass, rock, and pop into that country sound. This album is a fantastic start from the group and I’m personally hoping they get the chance to record more music in their career.