Nashville based Reed Stewart has deceptively simple aims for his music. He sets his sights on an artistic marriage of rock with an electronic flair that succeeds in entertaining listeners while still showing the sort of staying power we associate with substantive songwriting. It isn’t an unheard of synthesis, but achieving it takes talent. It is an all the more impressive achievement considering Stewart’s classical training as a drummer and percussionist. Stewart’s willingness and ability to take on every aspect of his latest single “Stick Shift”, singing, lyrics, playing each instrument, sets him apart from many peers and contemporaries. His ability to do so in a convincing manner puts additional miles between him and others as well.
His vocals are an underrated part of the package. Stewart isn’t a natural vocalist in the sense that he exhibits a wide range, masterful control, and the other elements we stereotypically associate with “great” singers. That definition of a great singer, however, is too narrow. A singer needs to dramatize the lyrics for their audience and make them suspend disbelief in a sense – meaning they forget, for a time, this is a performance and, instead, hear it more as a spontaneous and intimate utterance from the singer’s soul. The emotive tenor of Stewart’s vocals matches this ideal.
Keith Richards once said that “art” to him was short for “Arthur”. You can, however, take Reed Stewart’s music at face value and hear it free of the sort of pretense others often fear anyone affecting when they refer to their creative work in such a way. There is an unique balance in “Stick Shift” between mainstream accessibility and the experimental. Stewart never errs too far towards a given side but, instead, straddles that line with expert fleet-footedness. “Stick Shift” is confident in its direction from the outset. The electronic notes and understated percussion opening the track is soon joined by Stewart’s double tracked vocals. His talents as a drummer begin emerging from this track around the thirty second mark.
The unusual tempo may be challenging for listeners accustomed or devoted to responding to songs set in 4/4 time, but there is a definite design to the song’s percussion and the arrangement, on the whole, never lacks seamless integration. Like a sonic puzzle of a sort, the individual pieces of the arrangement lock into a place and make for a more unified whole. The interplay between the drums and bass is potent, but Stewart’s music alike will impress newcomers and those familiar with his work with its ability to shift through a variety of time signatures without the song ever losing its footing.
The second half of the song is especially daring in this regard. The aforementioned shifts in time contrast in sharper ways than before and seem to come a little faster as the song builds towards its conclusion. Stewart even tosses in some passages of relative conventionality for good measure. Reed Stewart’s “Stick Shift” is as compelling as the singles preceding it and solidifies his position as one of the more promising and eclectic composers working in indie scene today.