Sonic Reducer: Sing To The King

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I can imagine that in the best of all possible worlds, you know the one imagined by a character from an old French picaresque morality play, Jimmy Stallings would be up on the same ladder with folks like Bob Dylan or Edgar Winter or Robyn Hitchcock. Instead, he’s here in Burque, working like a true craftsman to record and release to the public shiny, shiny records full of nuance and complexity.

Stallings—also known as J.J. Light—is a former member of ’60s Tex-Mex rockers the Sir Douglas Quintet as well as a session man who sat in with everyone from members of the Mothers of Invention to the cats from Creedence. Now he lives and works in a humble home studio in Burque’s South Valley where he continues to make create records.

Stallings’ work aims to set the bar high for the production of roots-rock richness here in Burque and beyond. His creative association with the musical universe of Jeremy Barnes—which includes working with engineer Drake Hardin, singer-songwriter Rosie Hutchinson and A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s Heather Trost—has led to some particularly piquant pieces of music this year, on the heels of awesome, sometimes underground performances by the dude himself with Barnes or AJ Woods providing accompaniment.

Sing To The King is an opulent yet straightforward dive into gospel music. It’s not secular music but it resounds with themes of love, peace and universal brotherhood/sisterhood. Stallings shows that he is a seasoned and unabashed member of the counterculture that rose up on the West Coast in the latter half of the 20th century, and uses this knowledge to create songs that are reverent yet also transcendent.

Stallings uses this process to create songs that are rich with nuance—as on track number three, “Fishing in the River of Life.” While embuing the whole effort with a sort of carefree wonder, Stallings is serious in his devotion to the fellowship of Christ. Both sentiments emerge and become melodically limpid on the album’s highlight track, “Universal Sunshine Friend,” and emphatically, emblematically on the record’s opener “Jesus Is Coming Soon.”

With Barnes and company providing passionate playing and profound propulsion on this work, Stallings nails the genre on an album that was initially rehearsed and recorded in a living room studio in a mobile home in the South Valley.

Further, Stallings’ lack of pretension in real life, his sometimes dry delivery and his overall singular singing style contribute to the awesome aura that this record makes when you hit the play button.

Stallings also released an album of country covers with the same group of musicians as well as some old country hands around town and continues to perform—sometimes at house party hootenannies and jam sessions—in the midst of Albuquerque’s music community.
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