Stefanie Keys is an artist who recently released her third album Open Road. She utilizes a number of professional musicians including Dave Shul (guitar), Ronnie Smith (drums/ background vocals), Dave Jess (bass), Raleigh Neal (keys) and Peter Keys (piano). She plays a mix of blues, country, rock and Americana.
There isn’t anything out of place with this album and that's the one thing that held it back. The production is super polished, every instrument is played perfectly in time and there isn’t a minor imperfection to be found. I wanted a little more of a raw ’70s style recording with a keyboard player who was hungover from too much partying the night before. Instead the production sounded like contemporary mainstream country/pop.
There is a good amount of heart on this album but almost all of it comes from Keys’ vocals. Everything else is very much like a studio session from technically proficient players who play familiar tropes.
The singing is consistently pretty fantastic. There are however some pretty different sounding styles. Up first is “Open Road” which is a mix between classic rock and country. You can hear traces of bands ranging from The Who to Bonnie Raitt. It’s a catchy song but also predictable.
“No Tomorrow” was a bluesy vibe while “3 Hours Till Yesterday” is an anthemic country/rock hybrid. “City Life” has a lounge-y late night jazz vibe. It felt a bit random compared to everything that came before. I thought the highlights were “Amos Crane” and the closer “9 O’ Clock.”
Suffice it to say I think Keys is a great singer and a good songwriter. It’s obvious she was a fan of music from the ’60s and ’70s. There is nothing wrong with that. I just saw so many production tricks, derivative guitar fills and other parts that have been overused coming before they got there. It would have been nice to to hear some more experimentation and more out of the box thinking of where the songs could go.
Open Road will unequivocally be enjoyed by many. The songs have a broad, general appeal that is hard to deny.
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