Aside from having an interesting personal history, The Stone Coyotes are a whip smart rock and roll trio with carefully crafted, hard-driving songs. The trio has a faint trace of roots rock in their sound. Enough to keep their songs engaging, not so much it feels like a novelty act. Their time period is hard to pigeonhole. All 12 tracks on A Wild Bird Flying should go over well with music fans who like everything from The Band to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to The White Stripes.
Title track “A Wild Bird Flying” kicks things off with Barbara Keith’s slightly raspy voice and assertive guitar work. She puts a swagger in her song with charging sweeps of electric guitar. Her rhythm section is also her family. Husband Doug Tibbles drums and her son John Tibbles plays bass and lead guitars. The drumming is loaded with an adept rhythmic sense and the bass keeps a steady menacing drone going on, perfectly serving this song about a rebellious spirit. John Tibbles presses out an edgy guitar phrase that percolates with action.
Second track “Powder Keg” charges right in with feisty guitar chords. An understated rhythm section pumps up the guitar and vocals while staying out of their way. Keith has a personable voice that makes you feel like she’s telling you her tales over a small table. She paints a detailed description of a young man with her lyrical talents while delivering with a self-restrained cool. Hearing her sing over a bass drum beat shows how she can pull the band in any direction she chooses. Her son’s guitar break here is on fire and closes out the song with balls of energy.
The trio slows things down a bit on “Your Fall From Grace.” Keith’s tasteful touches of guitar notes make them resonate with forlorn emotion. Her gentle but direct vocal approach makes you take notice of this story song. Building momentum with climbing guitar chords and rising vocal dynamics, Keith makes you feel this story is taking you somewhere with purpose. Guitar and bass play off of each other beautifully at each tempo this tune plays out on, and the chunky rhythmic click is irresistible to the listener.
Keith plays a honky tonk flavored piano on “Sing Me A Hymn,” a jaunty, mid-tempo rocker that showcases how easily she can bounce her vocal up and down over the rhythms. An easy going guitar line oozes forward with a gently pressed edge, making its presence felt without overwhelming or competing with the lilting movements of this piece. Keith harmonizes with herself beautifully, singing her catchy, hooky chorus with a fulsome, flowing sweetness.
The trio rock things up on “Close To The Bone.” Keith balances her smooth vocal with her crackling guitar work, creating a tone of danger and menace. Creating tones and feelings is the secret to this trio’s success, their ability to create a musical setting to match the color and tone of Keith’s lyrically descriptive action. You feel like you’re in the hands of consummate story telling songsmiths. Keith’s feisty coos and a tortured lead guitar ride out inspire the listener’s imagination with the possibilities of what is going on in the words.
“Red Letter Day” features Keith’s grueling slide guitar work, emitting a greasy, slippery vintage melody that oozes flavor. Fetching vocally as well, Keith purrs this one with class. The trio hoof it rhythmically, making their song gallop along with an head-bopping catchiness. John Tibbles’ lead guitar plays its honky tonk toned juiciness alongside that impeccable slide. The combined picking gives this an undeniable coolness.
“A Dangerous Mind” finds the trio trotting along at a take-your-time pace, unfolding more vocal finesse from Keith, crackling, tasty guitar work from John Tibbles and a notably palpable rhythm section. Keith holds her vocal notes with a strength that makes her voice climb upward with a muscular authority.
The trio charge right into “Big Bad Wolf” with an impeccably solid rhythm guitar phrase and authoritative groove. You can picture the trouble maker this song is about doing his bad ass routine in a town that he’s intimidated. John Tibbles’ rockabilly influenced guitar phrase carries through with oldies appeal. He keeps the sound pared down, making it feel like a bombastic event without ever having to play bombastically.
“Going Down For The Third Time” allows the trio to slowly unfold their multiple talents. Keith penetrates the listener’s consciousness with a whistling, sustained vocal note. John Tibbles peels off his lead guitar notes with a sublime hint of foreboding. The embraceable rhythm section fills this one with a lot of nifty twists and turns to keep the listener bobbing his head or tapping his toes. You just can’t help yourself.
The Stone Coyotes close out their album with the aggressively played storyline of “You Got Rolled.” This one rocks with a steady forward momentum that pounds a message home with hefty bass lines and kick ass drum work. Keith sings this one with a take no prisoners drive, singing out her lines like she’s giving a hard lesson in life. You wouldn’t want to mess with this trio after you hear them drive this one home.
The Stone Coyotes have a solid grounding in American roots rock idioms, and they craft their sound into very likable songs that they push forward with steely resolve. Fans of oldies, rockabilly, country-rock, honky tonk, and classic rock would be doing themselves a big favor by immediately purchasing their A Wild Bird Flying album.