While the majority of country music reviewed on Country Perspective comes from America, sometimes I like to go across the pond and review something from neighbors in the United Kingdom. Today is one of those times as I review the new EP from Stanford Road called Open Ended. Stanford Road is made up of Terry ‘Blackjaz’ Muller and Rachael Muller, a husband and wife duo. The reason they call themselves Stanford Road is because it’s the name of the street where they first met and lived as neighbors. Open Ended is their first ever EP, which they recorded at Aubitt Studios in Southhampton, UK with producer Rob Aubrey. They wrote the majority of the songs on this album, as they are songwriters. They also cover one song I’m sure many of you are quite familiar with. So let’s take a look at the duo’s first EP.
The EP starts off with a song called “Letters.” This song is about a woman who falls in love with a man who she considers the devil, similar to how her mother fell in love with a man who she considered the devil too. This is an Americana song with country influences. I have to say the duo is quite good together and the Rachael’s voice is quite powerful. The lyrics help tell the story well and I overall find the song to be quite solid. This is followed up with “So Wrong,” which seems to be a self-reflective song about the husband and wife’s relationship together. Everyone, including themselves thought they were so wrong together. But after seven years together they’ve proven doubters wrong. It’s a nice little love song that let’s the duo’s personalities shine through. I like the mandolin play in this song too.
“Independence Highway” is an upbeat song about someone leaving home and going out on their own. The person finds out it’s harder than they thought out on their own and the father brings them home later in the song. The message of this song is slanted towards a younger listener who is just starting out in life. I like the beat of this song and it’s easy on the ears. The next song, “Fool’s Comfort,” takes a sadder tone. This song is about a relationship falling apart and the feeling of love in the relationship becoming a fool’s comfort. Again I think Rachael’s voice really shines and gives this song the raw emotion it needs to reach the listener. A solid heartbreak ballad.
Open Ended concludes with their cover of Brooks & Dunn’s Grammy winning song, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry.” This song of course was made by popular by the duo and later they did a collaboration with Reba McEntire on the song. It’s a mid tempo paced song about a girl who is taught by her father that cowgirls don’t cry. She remembers this throughout hardships in her life and by the end of the song she calls her dad on the phone after finding out he’s dying. He reminds her that she shouldn’t cry again. It’s a powerful song and I think Stanford Road did a great job covering it and hitting the emotional points. This is by no means an easy song to sing and its great awareness by the duo to pick a song they know they can do justice to it. Too many artists pick songs to cover that are outside their comfort zone. Not only do they cover it well, but they put their own twist on it to make it their own.
This is a nice little offering from Stanford Road and they certainly show some potential. I would describe their overall sound more Americana than country, but there are certainly influences of country along with folk. These are all solid showings and in the future I hope they tackle deeper material. They also need to focus more on harmonies, as a duo’s bread and butter should always be their harmonies (look at Shovels & Rope). This is just the beginning for the duo though and I’m sure they will find themselves and their perfect sound as their career progresses. It’s really difficult to judge EP as it’s only really a quick look at what an artist can offer. I feel there weren’t any bad spots on this EP and the only criticisms I have are very minor: more music and music with a little more depth. Other than that a good showing for Stanford Road. Once again I take a trip across the pond for a review and find more great music from the UK.