Rolling Stone reviews Soft Commands

Ken Stringfellow Soft Commands (Yep Roc)

Posies co-founder, R.E.M. cohort and Big Star confederate Ken Stringfellow is deep into his second decade of creating sterling pop music. Soft Commands is his third solo release of intricately arranged, intimate songs that mine Bacharach, Bread, the Beach Boys and at least one Beatle (McCartney, of course). Written and recorded all over the world, from Seattle to Senegal, the album unfolds like a travelogue, with spartan piano ballads in between mini-symphonies with a few surprise stops along the way, like Stringfellow’s baroque mandolin on “Any Love,” the brisk electronic rhythm underneath “For Your Sake” and the blue-eyed soul-steeped “Let Me Do.” Occasionally, the multi-instrumentalist gets a bit precious (the Doors-y darkness of “Je Vous En Prie,” the dub experiment of “Dawn of the Dub of the Dawn” and the boy’s choir and reggae verses of “You Become the Dawn”), but Stringfellow’s clear, composed croon forgives all sins.

Big Star feature in this month’s Mix Magazie

Down in the Delta

The Heart and Soul of Memphis Recording

By Rick Clark

Memphis is a town of contradictions, a seemingly illogical place where nothing seems to happen and a lot of things are happening at once. More than a million people live in the area, yet it feels like no one’s in a hurry and they’ll arrive in their own time.

The music that has come out of the River City has in many ways changed the world, thanks to iconoclasts, renegades and dreamers such as Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, who started Stax Records (Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding), Willie Mitchell and his Hi Records label (Al Green), Quinton Claunch of Goldwax (O.V. Wright, The Ovations) and John Fry of Ardent (Big Star, Cargoe). So much important music has come out of Memphis that it is easy to overlook fresh, new homegrown talent such as the North Mississippi Allstars, hard-rockers Saliva and hip hop act Three 6 Mafia…

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Ken on the SXSW performance

“This is the show where I debuted much of the Soft Commands material. It was an emotional night. This year at SXSW, I was doing it all hours, full speed,” Ken says.

“The Posies played electric and acoustic sets, Big Star performed and I played several solo sets plus accompanied Robyn Hitchcock (twice) and John Roderick from the Long Winters.

“I was influenced by my fatigue and by wherever I was in my life at that point. Anyway, somehow, when I played these songs, I had a lot to release, and many mysterious and deep sentiments were attached to the erformances, hopping on as stowaways, making it sometimes difficult to proceed without being overwhelmed, but all in all it was an intense set.”

from murmurs.com

The Anti-Hit List

by John Sakamoto

eyeWeekly

http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_06.24.04/music/ahl.html

9. KEN STRINGFELLOW, “Don’t Die”: Like the best of Stringfellow’s post-Posies output, this galloping anti-war statement has so much going on within its deceptively rigid pop-song structure, it takes three listens just to get your bearings. The militaristic rhythms are draped with swaths of orchestration, the lyrics rhyme da Vinci and Medici, and yet somehow it all comes together in the end. (From Soft Commands, www.kenstringfellow.com, out July 13)