New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Nashville-based Americana singer-songwriter Stewart Eastham released his latest album, Dancers In The Mansion, on August 12, 2016. While Eastham’s previous album (The Man I Once Was) was a portrait of a man in turmoil, his new album paints a much different picture. The inky blacks and saturated reds splashed across the album cover provide clues as to the revelry within. The album’s closing line, “Celebrate yourself with love tonight,” is evocative of the celebratory spirit found throughout the record.
Dancers In The Mansion pushes the boundaries of what an Americana record can sound like. This dynamic collection of songs elevates the genre to new heights with its lyricism and innovative musical arrangements. Everything
from smoky, horn-inflected goodness (“In The Morning”), to disco-gospel (“Lift Your Soul”), to funk (“Pretty Little
Songbird”), to country-flavored classic rock (“Leavin’ By Sundown”), to psychedelic country (“2023 Miles”), to classic pop (“Old Lovers [In A Cheap Motel]”), to the slick grandeur of Nashville’s late ’60s/early ’70s “countrypolitan”-era (“Jackpot”) combines to create a compelling whole. Big, funky drums have always been a trademark of Eastham’s sound, but that big rhythm is more prevalent than ever before on this album, where he wears his hip-hop influences on his sleeve. At times, he displays a pop sensibility that echoes Elvis Costello
and early Tom Waits.
This album marks Eastham’s first time co-producing his own material. Being so closely involved with every stage of the album’s production, he was able to really craft the songs so the musical arrangements best represented his point of view. “Being so hands-on with this album, I think the snapshot it presents is closer to my personality than anything I’ve done before,” says Eastham. “While the last album was me looking inward, this one is more me looking outwards. So, in a strange way, it probably gives a better a sense of who I am and what I find interesting or moving.”
For the album’s production team, Eastham brought in producer Burke Ericson and engineer Dave Pearson from his previous album. Eastham also reunited with producer Jayce Murphy (who produced his final album with Day Of The Outlaw) to produce some additional Nashville sessions. Rich Mouser (Chris Cornell, Mike Portnoy, Weezer), who has worked with Eastham on two previous albums, mixed the album.
Eastham recruited his former bandmates from Day Of The Outlaw—Kim Lee (bass, vocals) and Allen Jones (drums)—to create this record. Nashville guitar player extraordinaire Jeff Rogers (who has played live with Eastham many times over the years) filled out the band’s core unit. Many musicians featured on this album also performed on the last record (David Yuter/keys, Ted Russell Kamp/guitar, Skyko Tavis/strings), but there are some new faces. One is Bruce Springsteen’s longtime pedal steel player Marty Rifkin. Gospel legends The McCrary Sisters are featured on several tracks. Oscar Utterström (Los Lobos, My Morning Jacket), Jim Williamson (The Mavericks), Evan Cobb, and Tutu Sweeney played horns on the album, with Michael Roundtree (Wu-Tang Clan) on percussion.
Lyrically, Dancers In The Mansion highlights a more playful side of Eastham’s songwriting. There are several songs laced with his dark sense of humor. Songs like “Old Lovers (In A Cheap Motel)” and “Fruit Cocktail Cannery Blues” display a verisimilitude that brings a poignancy to their darkly comic tales. The title track is a madcap romp that may be the first shit-kickin’ country song to mention both “moonwalked” and “Jheri curl.” “She’s My Gal” displays a wry bawdiness that belies its retro stylings. Eastham felt the freedom to be more experimental with his lyrics as evident in the narrative shifts of “In The Morning,” the first person plural point-of-view of “The Barroom,” and the cinematic transcendency of album closer “Lift Your Soul.”
Eastham was born and raised in rural Northern California. He grew up on the sounds of classic and outlaw country, with a special place in his heart for California country greats Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. This was supplemented with a love of rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop. While attending UC Davis, Eastham played drums in a satirical thrash band and later a power pop group. After graduating, he switched gears and moved to Los Angeles to attend film school (he is an avid filmmaker). There he developed his skills as a storyteller through writing, directing, and acting in films. He also became an acolyte of country music—starting with Hank Sr. and working his way through the country-flavored singer-songwriters of the ’70s (like John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, and Mickey Newbury) on up through the neo-traditionalist sounds of Dwight Yoakam. It was at this point he started writing and singing his own songs. He fronted the band Day Of The Outlaw for two albums before he moved to Nashville from Los Angeles in the fall of 2010. He released his first solo album, The Man I Once Was, in 2013.
Eastham plans to tap into his filmmaking background and shoot multiple music videos to accompany tracks from the album, similar to what he did for his previous album.