Christopher Paul Stelling
There is a fearless quality to the music of Christopher Paul Stelling. A voice that sounds both old and young, an effortless yet intricate finger-picking guitar style and lyrics that are both dramatic, and intensely confessional. It’s a sound that channels the restless spirit of a young man who left home to travel the country, haunting and impassioned songs formed by endless nights alone on stage with a guitar, playing to packed houses, other times to nearly empty rooms. Stelling estimates that he’s played over four hundred shows in just the past three years. It places him within a longstanding tradition that serves to nurture ones character and art.
“It takes a lot of work to stay on the road,” he says. “You learn to rely on your songs as a sort of resting place amidst all of the unfamiliarity. You fill your head full of places, and sounds, and ideas — and it all comes spilling out. When the things around you change constantly, you change too. And the things that stay the same become who you are. It’s nurtured my songwriting, knowing that the inspiration is all around you. If you aren’t seeing it, then look harder, and if you still don’t see it, then turn the corner, and if you still don’t see it then look at things differently, because it’s right there in front of you.”
After self-releasing his debut album Songs of Praise and Scorn in February 2012 and his second, False Cities, in May 2013, CPS has toured the US and Europe relentlessly, averaging over 150 live performances per year. Singing his songs with a pure uninhibited delivery, Stelling has become known for the intensity and passion put into his live performances. Owing as much to the bards and troubadours of times long since past as to his contemporaries, Stelling’s ever developing commitment to his craft is obvious.
His ANTI Records debut, 2015’s Labor Against Waste received near unanimous praise and excellent reviews. Upon release of the record, he played nearly 40 European dates and then embarked on a mammoth 200+ date North American tour (which kicked off with a performance [and marriage proposal on stage!] at Newport Folk Fest) that took him to nearly every state in the lower 48, lasted close to 18 months, and included an extended tour opening for Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. CPS’s second ANTI record, Itinerant Arias, made it’s appearance on May 5th, 2017. The album found the finger picking virtuoso backed by a cadre of friends and musicians, lending a rollicking energy to a record inspired by traveling through and observing an undeniably tumultuous world.
2018 finds him in his comfort zone – writing new material and touring the world. Catch him when he’s in your area. You’ll be glad you did.
James A.M. Downes
James A.M. Downes gets you, and you haven’t even met. It’s hard being alive these days. How could anyone deny that? But unlike your real life, James’ music is full of reassurance and comfort in knowing that someone else’s mind is just as quirky and desperate as yours.
James started contributing music to the New England hardcore/indie scene in the early 2000s as a founding member of Call It Arson. After years of relentless touring, the band went on hiatus and in 2008, Downes relocated to New York City where he helped build indie-folk band The End of America. While James’ post in The End Of America endures, he took a step out into the world as a solo artist with the announcement of his debut album, the 6-song EP, Prison Font, released in March 2017.
Prison Font, out on Downes’ own Forest Park Recordings, plays host to a range of influences, from the melodic intuition of George Harrison, to the new-retro feel of the Shins, to the lush guitar beds that shine with a hint of early 2000s Death Cab for Cutie. Honest yet crassly eloquent lyrics give breath to narratives that teem with dark humor and humility, taking the listener from debaucherous parties in the afterlife all the way to the desolate empty bedrooms of former lovers, long since vanished.
While recent features in publications like Relix Magazine help Prison Font take flight, word of James’ energetic and personable live performances spreads among music lovers. Either performing as a yearning cello/guitar duet or leading a bruising and beautiful full band, most concert goers would agree with The Deli’s Henry Solotaroff-Webber in saying that “James boldly [displays] his talent as a songwriter, and [solidifies] himself as someone to watch.”
New Haven's Sam Carlson writes with an acerbic punch. With incisive and often satirical lyrics he explores a fascination with the mundane, good and bad uses of time, and a fistful of bummers. He has worked in different capacities with a variety of bands including but not limited to: Ports of Spain, Laundry Day, The Proud Flesh, 10K Blades, Rob Carlson and Benefit Street, and Winter White.