I’ve been listening exclusively to Stacie Collins of late, and her new album ‘Roll The Dice’. Man, is she good, and to coin an often overused term, is the ‘real deal’. Anyone who has the great Dan Baird and Warner Hodges in her corner has to be top shelf, as they don’t pin their hard earned reputations onto just anyone. If Stacie Collins has their seal of approval – you know she’s gotta be good. Good enough in fact for Dan Baird to have produced her past three albums. Always difficult to define an artist’s sound, yet some of the descriptors used to outline the Stacie Collins sound are pretty spot in. “Little Walter meets Joan Jett and Tammy Wynette”. This harmonica blowin’ hell-cat is blazing a trail travelled by few women.” She mixes Stones-fried rock-n-roll, raunchy blues & vintage honky-tonk. Although she is based in Nashville, she has an established market in Scandinavia and Europe and in Japan, there is even a “Stacie Collins” tribute band. Leather clad, eyeliner, and wailing away on harmonica – she’s a long way removed from the Grand Ole Opry of the 50’s – although country purists might enjoy her self-titled album from 16 years ago which is more trad. country than her recent recordings.
Some history. When she was a little girl, Stacie Collins lived above the bar where her mother worked as a waitress. While other kids were playing with dolls and trains, her main source of entertainment was the magical, glowing jukebox that reeled and rocked downstairs until way past her bedtime. In one of Collins’ earliest memories, she’s dancing on the bar’s pool table, collecting quarters from bleary-eyed customers and then stuffing them, spellbound, into the neon-encased Rock-ola. It’s no surprise then that, years later, Stacie would end up onstage, performing original songs that draw their life-blood from those honky-tonk jukebox classics. Born in Muskogee, OK and raised in Bakersfield, CA, her childhood and teenage years reverberated with the honky-tonk sounds of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. A move to nearby Hollywood in her late teens put Stacie in touch with LA’s burgeoning rock scene. Obsessed with both the twang of West Coast country and the balls-out energy of rock-n-roll, she picked up a blues harp and right away started attracting attention. Being a female harp player still makes her something of a rarity, especially in her adopted hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. “My Dad played harmonica”, Stacie recalls, “and even though I didn’t know him very well because my parents divorced when I was 5, I felt like that gave me license. I had inherited a gift. After learning to play, I fell in love with the Chicago Blues sound and players like Little Walter and James Cotton. I had found my muse.” Upon arriving in Nashville in 2001, Stacie quickly proved that she wasn’t your typical Music Row twangstress the moment she stepped back from the mic and unleashed her high-spirited energy on a mean little blues harp. Full of attitude and flair, blowing harmonica is her calling card but it’s Collins’ soulful voice and gritty songwriting that creates such a broad ranging appeal.
2007’s ‘The Lucky Spot’ is the first of her albums which shows a real muscled up rock/country sound, with Baird’s influence clearly evident throughout. Man I love Dan Baird. What a shame he doesn’t tour Australia as often as he does Europe, where let’s face it, the market is established and the balance sheet offers greater profits. I get that. Check out the ballsy opener ‘Its Aint’ Love’ for a song straight outta the Dan Baird book of hits, a guy who certainly made the runka-runka sound his own (although he will tell you the sound goes back to NRBQ). Collin’s 2010 effort ‘Sometimes Ya Gotta’ is better again, and top to bottom is chock full of memorable, hook laden roots country rockers. If it’d been released twenty years ago it would sound as natural on 70s FM radio alongside ZZ-Top & The Rolling Stones as it would next to retro-rockers the Black Crowes or Jason & the Scorchers. Great tunes. Again produced by Dan Baird. Classic Rock said it best with “Guaranteed to get any party started… Imagine a late-night lock-in jam with Aerosmith, The Stones and ZZ Top, fronted by the equivalent of Ronnie Van Zant, or maybe even Shania Twain with balls…. It’s sassy, sexy & rocks like a bitch”. The album opener ‘Hey Mister’ is rip snorter, and ‘I Won’t Do Ya Like That’ sounds like it should have been on the Satellites’ Open All Night’ album’. ‘The tender ‘It Hurts To Breathe’ is a good example of the strength and quality of song writing diversity on display. A song for the broken hearted, yet as good as anything you’ll hear on FM country tear jerker radio anywhere. Did I mention that this girl is good? Which brings me to her latest (and fifth) album, ‘ Roll The Dice; released late last year. This has been getting rave reviews and justly so, although Classic Rock got it wrong big time with their review of 6 out of 10, and comments such as “the lack of distinctive traits in her music lets it down.” Which means that the limey reviewer knows bugger all, and if he did, he would know that she categorically has a blues/rock/country sound all her own, distinct due to her own vocal sound (no one sounds like her), harmonica laced blues/country played by HER (a woman, that’s not distinct?), and all songs are catchy, infectious and memorable. There’s harmonica drenched rockers (‘Lost and Found’, and the brooding ‘King Of Rock’), to the super melodic and radio friendly ‘Gonna Fly’. How about ‘Jani’, the catchy sing-along tribute ballad to the deceased Warrant front man which is, incidentally, my favourite song on the new album. ‘It’s Over’ has a huge chorus which you will be singing over and over. This song is a monster. Talking about sing-along chorus’ , how about ‘Heart On My Sleeve’. Another example of the quality of the song writing. 6 out of 10 Classic Rock ? Please. This album is solid from top to bottom and gets 10 out of 10 from Cowboy Col. She is an original. As I said, forget his lame review and go onto YouTube and check out some of her videos yourself. Be your own reviewer. I think this is her best and most consistent album so far, its heavier than the others and is well worth your hard earned. Am I biased? I mean Dan Baird is, along with Neil Young, one of my all-time faves, but after 5 albums and 15 odd years, this girl stands well and truly on her own two feet with a distinctive sound (up yours Classic Rock) that is well and truly all her own. Go to staciecollins.com and dig in. You won’t be disappointed. Get your ass down to Australia Stacie!