If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ve heard the name Stu Larsen. In some ways, he’s exactly the type of act that we designed the site to cover. He’s brilliantly successful, but for some strange reason he’s not quite as well known as some of his colleagues. We’re here to help with that. Resolute is an amazing album that should, if justice prevails, launch Larsen into being a household name.
Stu Larsen’s music is basically that of a singer songwriter, but it carries textures of pop artists like James Taylor. Maybe a more recent comparison would be someone like Ben Rector, but Larsen’s musical style is deeply rewarding. He carries with his persona a sort of Bohemian presence, always on the move and full of interesting wrinkles. I have to say I hope to some day get the chance to sit down with him and ask him how the world looks through Stu-colored glasses. It must be fascinating.
“Aeroplanes,” the opener, begins with that “well travelled” description, with just the right level of intimacy. It rolls right along with a sweet disposition. The second track “What’s a Boy to Do” is gentle and moving. It’s a nice easy tune in waltz time, showing off the balance of a subtle instrumentation and superb vocal. Each line rolls off Larsen’s tongue like a whispered, intimate comment. He’s begging his friend (lover?) to stay with him. It’s a heartbreak song and I hope none of you can relate to it (but I’m sure most of you can).
“Chicago Song” has a really crisp stand up bass and some lovely harmonies. In fact, one of the lyrics, “won’t you come and sing a little harmony” really works well. The song is an invitation to do life together, but it really comes across as a gentle Americana tune. It’s heartfelt and as authentic as the setting sun. I can’t get enough of this organic style.
Carrying on with the acoustic guitar style and thoughtful lyrics, the next few tracks stay right in Larsen’s pocket. Showing off versatile language skills and useful metaphors, it’s clear that Larsen just has a blast with his music. “What If” allows a prominent piano to change the sound from guitar. It really suits Larsen’s vocal style and overall approach to music. The contemplative lyrics “what if we’re not meant to be?” pervade the track. It seems to levitate a bit (metaphorically); when you hear it, you’ll know what I mean. It’s got a spiritual feel to it.
“Far from Me” is a rooted track. I can imagine Larsen in the middle of a silent stage at a listening venue playing this one. It has the perfect amount of reverb that really hangs in the “air” of the song. When the gospel harmonies enter the track, it goes from a song I enjoy to an instant “song of the year” candidate. That’s not hyperbole at all.
The following “By the River” allows the acoustic guitar and a minor chord progression to pull the listener in. There’s a really visceral quality to the mix on the vocal. It sounds like there’s a Larsen in your left and your right ears. The resonance is superb, creating a contemplative style reflecting on belief and direction. Who are we and where are we going, really? It’s eerie.
The final track “Til the Sun Comes Back” is full of hope, as you might imagine. But even the chords sound optimistic. It’s apparent that the soul who crafted such a song, “weary of this world” talking of war and conflict, is the same soul that speaks of a meaningful spiritual hope. Using a style that puts me in mind of Greg Holden, it’s a wonderful way to end a fantastic album.
If you’ve read this far you know this is a great album. By my count, it’s a must buy. Even though I skipped a few here for brevity, there are no skip tracks on the album. Fans of singer songwriters and acoustic artists, especially, need to go out and get this album.