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Max Stalling

Topaz City – 2007 (Blind Nello)

Reviewed by Dawn Pomento

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CDs by Max Stalling

Max Stalling entered the music business late - he claims he didn't even pick up a guitar until after graduate school. He left a successful career in food product development to pursue music, but on his own terms. Nearly five years have passed since Stalling released a studio recording. He didn't squander those years in between studio sessions: Stalling toured, built a fan base that's willing to travel to exotic locations to see him perform and released a live album, "Sell-Out." Oh, and he found time to polish 11 outstanding songs to perfection for his latest R.S. Field-produced CD. The common thread through the songs is Stalling's lazy deep voice and the nimble and unpredictable wordplay.

There are heartbreak songs and so-lonesome-I-could-cry songs, but there's also a thread of maturity and even optimism that's hard to find on tunes that otherwise toe a traditional country line. "Skyview Cabaret" is a prime example of the way that Stalling's songs work on many levels. He tosses out a line that's pure poetry: "The sun, the old vaudevillian, bows to light applause/But before he's done, he does the one about vermilion and the curtain falls." Then Stalling adds a wink and a nod: "So turn off your TVs, turn off your lights/Get out a blanket; turn on your lover tonight." No one has ever made watching a sunset seem more enticing.

And that's why Stalling is the thinking songwriter's songwriter.