Virginia-born, Los Angeles-based country singer-songwriter Mike Stinson takes his own sweet time getting things done, and it’s enough to drive a fan nuts. The accomplished barroom philosopher has an entire new album that he recorded in Texas last summer, but Stinson is sitting on the damn thing like a mother hen, waiting until he gets a good enough offer to release it (speaking of mothers, his is the only one who has even heard it yet), and the record company squares aren’t exactly declaring a bidding war. But when he takes the stage this weekend at Pappy & Harriet’s, the offbeat honky-tonk stylist may finally break down and give some of these tunes a public airing.
Then again, who knows? He’s notorious as a painstaking writer, one who will re-write material even after a song has entered the set list. “I always sit and tweak ‘em for awhile.” Stinson said. “Some I get one done in a day, some others it takes months before I settle on a line. If I’m not happy with line or two, I’ll still tweak ‘em even after I’m performing them—it’s a pretty good gauge when you sing ‘em live, and if a line makes you wince, I go home and work on it.”
The results, as heard on his two previous albums Last Fool at the Bar and The Jack of All Heartaches are uniformly remarkable. Stinson’s knack for sad ballads, always enhanced by a sense of intimacy and immediacy, rate him as one of the best in his field, but he still wandering the desolate back forty.
“No one seems to care if I do it or not,” Stinson said. “But I’ve got a bug to do it, and at my own pace. I had a world of stuff for the next record, and it is going to kick ass when I get it out—and I will, if it’s my last action on earth. I do it how I do is—and that’s made my ascension a very slow one, but momentum keeps building, it gets better over time, so there’s always a reason to keep going.”
Tragically, Stinson almost qualifies as an aberrant in contemporary country, but his gutsy skein of integrity and undeniable stash of raw talent comprise an armory of aesthetic ordinance that’s hard to beat. The honky tonk Tortoise to Nashville’s goosed up pop-drunk Hare, Mike Stinson is, ultimately, sure to prevail.
“I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility,” he said. “I’d like it to happen and see if the world likes it. Most of my friends are shocked and confused that it hasn’t happened.”
Yes, we know the feeling. (Jonny Whiteside)
Mike Stinson Band and the Dave Gleason at Pappy & Harriets, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; Fri., Mar. 27, 7:30PM