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Fire It Up

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Album Review

Barbara Keith's voice cuts through the rock & roll on "Rock On" (not the David Essex hit, but an original from this trio) as if Joan Jett's persona invaded the vocalist from 1968's venerable Kangaroo. With decades of creating original sounds under her belt the singer works her way through a variety of genres while Stone Coyotes as a unit stay true to their unique style. "Dance Band" is a light driving rocker that twists down musical roads which set it apart from the rave-up that is "So Long, I'm Gone, Goodbye." It's the same sentiment that the Eagles sang of in "Already Gone" and that another name songwriter from the 1970s, Harriet Schock, examined on her "Ok, You Win, I Give Up, You're Right, I'm Gone." But where Schock is moody, almost patronizingly introspective, Keith tells the subject matter to take a hike with a definite new wave sound a CBGB's audience would've appreciated circa 1978/1979. "Stars in Her Eyes" continues the primitive rock sounds, a Chinn & Chapman kinda production, not the anthemic "Glitter in Their Eyes" that Patti Smith gave us on Gung Ho, more of Barbara Keith being herself, a retro gal in the bars sending out warning signals. "The Ghost of Vicksburg" is yet another 180 with flavors of Joan Baez via Robbie Robertson's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Yes, it's a civil war tune with a sad tale to tell, one that the eternal Nitty Gritty Dirt Band should absolutely cover. It's miles away from the title track, "Fire It Up...," another one of the dozen tunes here that has pure power trio power riveting the chords into the speakers. Stone Coyotes are a family unit that take these songs on the road and hone their craft with a passion that's admirable. It's a mixture of fun and message, exemplified perfectly on "The Girls of America," a good opportunity for Pat Benatar, the aforementioned Joan Jett, Patti Smith and Harriet Schock, with k.d. lang for good measure, to join in on the fun and help out on the chorus. That's the only thing missing on these dozen songs from these veterans: full production and additional singers/instrumentation. The compositions sound like a framework, leaving the door open for many possibilities — keep everything in place as minimal music or let other artists cover these melodies and find their own embellishments. Barbara Keith's status as a major songwriter certainly makes the catalog of the Stone Coyotes something artists in need of material should keep their eye on. Closing track "Wake Up, What's the Matter?" would work for Celine Dion, though the listener wouldn't get that on the first spin, and that's the beauty of the songwriting here. Gerry Goffin on his It Ain't Exactly Entertainment double-disc knows the strategy full well, and that's the high compliment earned and given to Fire It Up as well as to this ambitious trio.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

As an unlikely rock trio in the form of a New York City guitarist and vocalist (Barbara Keith aka mom), a former television sitcom writer-turned-drummer (Doug Tibbles aka dad), and a bassist playing since the age of 11 (John Tibbles aka son), the Stone Coyotes have paved an esoteric musical path from New York City to Los Angeles all the way to Western Massachusetts in their quest for rock & roll respectability. Eschewing major-label distribution, the band released its initial recording, Church of...
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Fire It Up, The Stone Coyotes
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