A Brand-New Shade of Blue
Chris Stamey and his Fellow Travellers

Chris Stamey's new collaboration with the Fellow Travelers, A Brand-New Shade of Blue, was inspired by the intimate small-combo sound of the late '50s and early '60s — a time when the "cool jazz" compositions of such luminaries as John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk lived alongside the expanding pop vocabulary of Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb.

"These are songs for late nights and rainy days," Chris explains. "I wrote most of it in the dark of winter, in whispers, in the 'wee small hours of the morning,' that magic time 'when the whole wide world is fast asleep.' And these great singers and musicians kept that mood alive throughout the sessions that followed."

First up was vocalist Brett Harris, who became the primary singer on the set. Brett, a solo artist with three excellent albums under his belt, had worked with Chris before, not only as a featured performer with the acclaimed Big Star's Third concert series but also as a touring member of the dB's. He was joined by the accomplished trio of Charles Cleaver (piano, also from the Third concerts), Dan Davis (drums), and Jason Foureman (acoustic bass), with Chris on guitar.


Next came thrillingly expressive solos by 19-year-old tenor-sax prodigy Elijah Freeman and N.C. jazz-scene linchpins Foureman, Will Campbell (alto and soprano sax), Evan Ringel (trombone), and Ben Robinson (trumpet), which connected and underlined the detailed, evocative lyrics. Vocalist Django Haskins (the Old Ceremony) chimed in on "Dangling Cheek to Cheek." And wunderkind Lithuanian chanteuse Ramuné Martin joined for a song ("I Don't Think of You") and charmed them all.

The project was well underway when the pandemic stopped in-person sessions cold. But the undaunted Fellow Travelers were able to assemble home studios, some for the first time, and complete the arrangements. As the songs took shape, additional sonic details came from Dale Baker (bongos), Matt Douglas (Mountain Goats) (bass clarinet, bari sax), Karen Galvin and Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) (violins), Peter Holsapple (The dB's) (banjo), Rachel Kiel (flute and harmonies), Mark Simonsen (vibraphone), and Josh Starmer (celli).


"A Brand-New Shade of Blue"

"Un Autre Temps"

"There's a Dream Around the Corner"

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A Conversation with Chris Stamey

Praise for New Songs for the 20th Century:

'New Songs for the 20th Century' is an amazing album. The songs astound, as if lifted out of a time machine; to highlight some songs and not others is almost criminal. Those familiar with the Great American Songbook will likely be enthralled by this rich collection. Backed by the Mod Rec Orchestra, many great musicians bring Stamey's new songs to life. The beautiful and luxurious "I Don't Believe in Romance" features singer Caitlin Cary and has the magic of a Burt Bacharach classic; the wistful "What is This Music that I Hear?" and "On an Evening Such as This" are both bolstered by singer Kirsten Lambert's affecting vocals. The jazzy "There's Not a Cloud in the Sky" and more contemporary "I Am Yours" are among the memorable tracks on disc one. The jazzy "Beneath the Underdog" (featuring Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon and Django Haskins), the beautiful "In Spanish Harlem," and nuanced "Lover, Can You Hear Me?" bring equal power to the second disc.' — Robert Kinsler, Rock 'N' Roll Truth (blog)

'Musicians from Rod Stewart to Bob Dylan have turned to the Great American Songbook to revive their creative juices. But Chris Stamey has taken a different approach. Instead of singing other people's compositions, he's rearranged a handful of old songs and written a raft of new ones that are akin to material for a 1958 recording session by Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald.'— Geoffrey Himes review, Downbeat Magazine, September, 2019

'This is a prodigious project that asks for real attention. Fortunately, the gift of this music pays off in timeless beauty and unlimited inspiration. It's like the past has been reinvigorated by the present, with nothing lost and everything gained.' — Bill Bentley review, Americana Highways, July 10, 2019

'"Insomnia" perfectly exemplifies the full album's intelligence and exuberance for rich harmonic environments and material unencumbered by compositional excess. Not a note is wasted.' — Pop Matters, May 16, 2019

"It's terrific: he has penned a batch of beautiful lyrics and melodies, and the performances here are uniformly fine. [Stamey has] rounded up a large group of talented players for his project, including dBs cofounder Peter Holsapple, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Marshall Crenshaw, and Branford Marsalis, to name a few.' — Americana Highways (blog), June10, 2019

'This is a sprawling, brilliant piece of work: 26 songs across two CDs, and each one is a masterpiece. And, even better, there are unmistakable Chris Stamey footprints throughout. . . . I'm not sure how old someone has to get before you can't call him a "Boy Genius" anymore, but at least I know now that it's post-60.' — Mike Fornatale, Shindig, July 8, 2019.

'Stamey does an amazing job matching the songs to the singers . . . the velvet voice of Django Haskins singing the swinging sound of "Manhattan Melody (That's My New York)" and the sweeping ballad "It's Been A While" . . . Kristen Lambert performing the lush ballads "What Is This Music That I Hear?" and "On An Evening Such As This" . . . Millie McGuire's stellar vocals grace the jazzy ballad "I Fall In Love So Easily" and the gentle flow of "Pretty Butterfly" . . . Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon and Django Haskins for the upbeat, gospel-like New Orleans-style jazz of "Beneath The Underdog.' — JP's Music Blog

'...thrilling, evocative' — John Platt, WFUV New Folk Initiative, writing about "Manhattan Melody"

'JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of the video for "Manhattan Melody (That's My New York)" by Chris Stamey and the ModRec Orchestra. . . . [B]oth the song and the album aren't quite what you'd expect based on his résumé' — the influence of the Great American Songbook is strong, and the overall sound is much closer to jazz than rock. It doesn't hurt that Stamey brought in some ringers here: Branford Marsalis on tenor sax, Matt Douglas on clarinet, Jim Crew (along with Stamey himself) on piano, Jason Foureman on bass, and Dan Davis on drums. Django Haskins is the vocalist, one of more than a dozen singers who alternate tracks throughout the album, including Nnenna Freelon, Ariel Pocock, and power-pop maestro Marshall Crenshaw.' — Jazz Times, June 28, 2019

'This is a stunning project that will capture the attention of listeners from several genres and from those who bestow awards for such projects.' — Glide Magazine, June 26, 2019

'Bravo to Stamey, and hopefully these songs will find their way into live performances and recording sessions by other artists and in some ways become part of a New American Songbook.' — Robert Baird, 20th Century Globe, July 10, 2019

'Stamey, with a terrific cast of musicians including folks like Branford Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Caitlin Cary and many others, doing the Tin Pan Alley type of tunes with really stunning results. On Disc One a few songs that really grabbed me were "Occasional Shivers" (sung by the lovely NNenna Freelon) and the gorgeous "Your Last Forever After" (sung by the great Caitlin Cary who really soars here). On Disc Two, "Beneath the Underdog" (which Marshall Crenshaw and Don Dixon both appear) really kicks it into gear while "In Spanish Harlem" evokes a late night walk on a summer evening. Oh, and do not miss the terrific "I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love With You" (sung by the very talented Kirsten Lambert who is all over this record). . . . Stamey and his crew really put their best foot forward here and they really do nail it, all subtlety and no bombast. The songs were inspired by a different era but they bring it completely up to date  and truly deliver a moving batch of songs.' — Dagger Zine (blog), July 18, 2019