Steve Stacey & The Stump Splitters Tall Tales, Fibs and Outright Lies

Who says there’s no originality anymore? This Ottawa Valley-based five-piece band of shit-kickers clearly play for their own entertainment first, and God bless ’em. They’ve figured out that this is the starting place for entertaining others, which they accomplish in spades across this homegrown 11-track release, which was born in their basement but meant for your big backyard. At first blush, lead singer/bandleader Stacey sounds half in the bag, out of key, with his band slightly out-of-tune. But once you clue in that the Stump Splitters aren’t the symphony, you’re immediately drawn into their rec-room groove. Country music with a local flair, Stacey and company have carjacked Buck Owens, rear-ended John Prine and made off with (at least) a vat of homemade whiskey to create this set of infectious masterpieces. There are drinking songs, drinking and driving songs, drinking and everything from relationships to jail to public hanging songs. It could be said that Stacey’s vocals are somewhat off-putting — more off than on. Yet, in no time flat, you’re charmed by the songs, by the musicianship (of special note, John Dillabough on guitar and mandolin and Pat Robillard on pedal steel) and by their homebrewed ambience. Pedal steel and fine fiddling augment basic guitars and drums across standout tracks, including modus operandi "Double-Fisted,” the highly Prine-like "Dirty Little Mind” and historically insightful ballad "James Patrick Whelen,” which is worthy of becoming a Canadian classic. The slightly self-indulgent "My Buck Owens Record,” recorded very live, is a story song that is a suitable album closer. Fifty minutes of fun, straight up. (Independent)