Celebrating American stories in song

The Baltimore Sun

On the Baltimore indie music scene, where most artists completely dissolve styles in an attempt to concoct something fresh, Caleb Stine sticks earnestly to the dusty acoustic sounds of Americana. His songs - evocative of campfires and sparse windswept landscapes - echo his influences, namely Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie.

October 29th, Stine's independently released debut with his band the Brakemen, came out in May 2006.

Since then, the Colorado-born artist, a Remington resident for the past eight years, has regularly toured the country. In the spring, he and the Brakemen - which include Andrew Stack on bass, E.J. Shaull-Thompson on drums and Burke Sampson on guitar - will self-release their still-untitled sophomore effort.

IN HIS WORDS --I think the label Americana works well. We're channeling folk, country, blues, R&B; and early rock 'n' roll. Then there are the stories, which is what Americana is all about.

THE NEW ALBUM --I think it's a continuation of a lot of American stories. Geography is a big part of the album. It chronicles a lot of road trips I've taken across America. There are songs about relationships both failed and successful, a song that's an homage to country music, a song about a kid who was diagnosed as manic-depressive but may not be. [The album] is really representative of what's going on in America right now.

GROWTH IN THE BAND --The new album is a culmination of our three-year experience of playing in a band. We play a lot of covers in our shows, songs by Hank Williams, artists like that. This record is sort of us digging in and pulling from our roots but growing something that's our own.

FINDING STORIES ELSEWHERE --Some of the best stories in music right now are in good rap songs. They put the truth and the stories upfront. When I listen to music, I don't hear style. I love Jay-Z. I love Sam Cooke. I just hear genius telling me about their lives and insights.

PACKAGING MUSIC --I'm aware of the instrumentation, how it dictates different styles. But I'm more concentrated on the stories the artists tell. I understand the need for styles and categories. I guess some people need packages to understand music. But a lot of what's coming out in pop, including country, it's like a repetitive template. And I don't want to repeat myself.


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