From "From Dancing to a Waltz" to an upbeat, driving two-step filled with longing ("Corsicana") Stalling will make you want to dance or croon right along with him. My favorites are "The Pila Song," which starts with doleful guitar picking by Brian Woody Woodruff, incorporating both Spanish and Texas flair; "Lying Here at 3," a rendering of heartfelt "comfortable" love; and "Lay My Burdens Down," which has a soulful, sing-along gospel flair. The album's final cut, "The Girl by the Lake," is a tender, slow recollection of a short-lived relationship. Although Stalling's voice is distinctive and his style strong, I hear a little Don Williams throughout the new CD, as well as Alan Jackson, and the tunes have a hint of Del Rio's Radney Foster.

"My influences are Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt," explains Stalling. "It's their lyrics. Also Merle Haggard, and the three Jims I call them: Jim Croce, James Taylor, and Jimmy Buffet. They're all great lyricists and storytellers. Also, Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith to a large degree. And Keen (Robert Earl). When I first heard him, he was so immediate and so within reach. I could relate to everything he said." Storytelling is Stalling's strongpoint, the real nature of his work.

Although Stalling's first two albums, Comfort in the Curves and Wide Afternoon (whose title track is extremely catchy) are both tight collections, One of the Ways is his strongest and most mature compilation yet. There is a quiet confidence in it: Something about Stalling's music is very becoming, appealing; it has a very down-home earthiness. There is a comfort zone here, a circular, soothing sound I like to give a slow listen to, while lying here at 3:00.

It seems that Stalling did the right thing in trading his five-year corporate day job stint at Frito-Lay for a lifetime of folky, Americana songwriting, and singing. He will be playing at Casbeers on Saturday, December 14.

Saturday, December 14
1719 Blanco Road



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