Ken Stringfellow – 2002

By Ed Masley, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 3 May 2002

From “Failure” to “Success,” the Posies’ flawless take on power- pop inspired such respect and adulation that no less an authority than Alex Chilton snagged the leaders of the group to back him in a reunited Big Star.

You would think that in his first post-Posies group, then, a singer who’d been in not only the Posies but also Big Star could expect a backing band to play his songs the way he would have wanted them to sound.

But that’s not quite the way things worked in Saltine.

Instead, as Ken Stringfellow says, “I found myself in a situation with people who were sort of purists to a degree about indie guitar. They had a box that they were definitely operating within. I was like `Hey, come on guys….’ I mean, it was my band, but I couldn’t really take them outside of the box, as it were. They weren’t very flexible.”

And so, the band broke up, with Stringfellow cutting a number of Saltine’s better songs on last year’s stunning solo effort, “Touched,” in arrangements he characterizes as “a little more sophisticated.”

“Down Like Me,” the first cut, finds a gorgeous, melancholy vocal underscored by weeping pedal steel guitar, while other cuts are blessed with strings and an organ evoking the best of ‘ 60s pop and soul.

Mitch Easter, whose production credits range from R.E.M. to Marshall Crenshaw, recorded the song and lined up Eric Marshall to supply the beat.

As Stringfellow recalls, “I only had met one of the people who played on this record before I started recording. The drummer, I sent him a tape ahead of time and got together with him when I showed up.”

He met the bassist, Tony Shanahan, while touring as a multi-instrumentalist in R.E.M. The tour included dates with Patti Smith and Shanahan was playing bass in her band.

“So I met him then,” Stringfellow says. “And from the get-go, he was like, `I want to play with you sometime,’ which was very nice. He did a great job.”

Neither Shanahan nor Marshall will be in the band at Club Cafe on Sunday, though. Stringfellow recruited a band, the Long Winters, to open the show, and then back him for his set.

“This is one of those ideas that just kind of fell together in a way,” he says. “We have the same booking agent. And I made a guest appearance on their record. They were looking for a touring situation that would be good for them and I was looking for a band for my tour and it all kind of worked out.”

As for his other band, the Posies, he says the group is “very casual” at present.

“No structure,” he says. “If something comes up, we do it. If we feel like it. We played some full band shows this year. We’ve done some acoustic shows, Jon [Auer] and I.”

He won’t be doing Posies songs at Club Cafe.

“We play all the songs from the record,” he says, “and a couple of songs from my first record. It’s mostly just presenting these songs. If we get to a point where we have time to learn stuff on the road, I might try to whip up a couple of new things.”