Stephen DOSTER | NEW BLACK SUIT | ATTICUS RECORDS | AUG. 25th, 2017
“Many of the songs on this record are speaking about friends of mine that have passed, but taught me a lot while they were here,” explains veteran Austin-based songwriter and Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame inductee, Stephen Doster. New Black Suit (Atticus Records, Aug 25th) is Doster’s second album after an 18-year release hiatus that ended in 2014 with the comeback album Arizona, which went on to be described as a “masterpiece” with “one charmed melody after another” by the Austin Chronicle.
“A record can magically open doors for you sometimes,” Doster says. “Arizona followed me to England, Scotland, Africa, and to many stages in the U.S. that I had never played before.”
When it eventually brought Doster back to Austin, he was emphatic about bringing the same group of musicians together again for the follow-up.
“I will always be grateful we were able to get it done,” Doster says, alluding to the practical impact that the album’s subject matter of friends who have passed can have. New Black Suit poignantly includes some of the last recorded work of legendary Austin session bassist and friend to many, George Reiff, who lost his battle with cancer on May 21st, 2017. Doster has dedicated the album to Reiff.
“George was having major surgery prior to these sessions, but when I heard he was recuperating better than expected, I wrote and said I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask him to be on the follow-up record,” Doster remembers. “I can only hope his family and friends will find pleasure and solace in hearing him playing with so much drive and eloquence. For me, this is the most exciting and meaningful musical experience I’ve ever been a part of.”
In addition to Reiff (Joe Walsh, Dixie Chicks) on bass, New Black Suit again features Dony Wynn (Dr. John, Robert Palmer) on drums and percussion, and Kevin Lovejoy (Spoon, John Mayer) on piano, organ, and keyboards accompanying the vocals and guitar work throughout from Doster. The revelatory playing and production feels like the friendship that permeates the listening experience. Despite the recurring lyrical theme of loss that is woven throughout the album, New Black Suit isn’t a downer. Its songs serve more as loving tributes and celebrations of their subjects.
The album’s first single and opening track “Shooting For The Stars” is a stunning example of this, capturing the lasting impact of life lost with a plaintive nostalgia that belies its upbeat tempo and transcendent melody.
“I wrote this song about one of my childhood friends,” says Doster. “The opening lines of the song come from a conversation I had with my friend and mentor, Townes Van Zandt in 1994 about another departed friend, the great Bill Hicks, on what would have been Bill’s 33rd birthday.”
In fact New Black Suit contains a track about Hicks, as well.
“The song ‘William Melvin Hicks’ is a tribute to Bill with respect for his integrity and vision,” Doster explains. “He is still inspiring people today.”
Another friendship that goes back to the start of Doster’s musical career is with the late Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott. The New Black Suit track “Until The End” takes its musical inspiration from a Honeyman-Scott guitar riff that Doster heard him working on shortly before his death. At that time in 1982, Honeyman-Scott was in the midst of producing Doster’s debut album.
“During the sessions, Jimmy was called back to London to cut a new Pretenders single,” Doster remembers. “He was coming right back to Texas as soon as he was done.” Unfortunately, Honeyman-Scott’s sudden death and its impact on Doster delayed the completion and release of Doster’s debut album for over a decade as he became an in-demand session guitarist, collaborative songwriter, and eventually a record producer with more than 70 credits to his name.
Over the years, Doster has worked with Willie Nelson, Dr. John, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joe Cocker, and Nanci Griffith among many others. More recently, he has enjoyed watching the rise to fame of Grammy Award-winner Maren Morris, whose debut album, Walk On, was produced by Doster. Walk On contains Morris’ version of the Doster song “Barrelhouse Blues,” in addition to the title track, which she co-wrote with Doster.
New Blacks Suit’s closing number is the album’s title track which found its inspiration in one of Doster’s old address books.
“I found an address book that I hadn’t used in some time,” Doster recalls. “I landed on a page that had the names and numbers of three old friends, one right after the other, and it dawned on me that all three had left this world.”
In that moment, Doster realized the song, and ultimately the concept of New Black Suit; both its heartfelt tributes to fallen friends and what their legacies mean to the living. As Doster elegantly puts it, “New Black Suit is me and my musical friends playing for our lives!”
New Black Suit, the latest album from Stephen Doster arrives via Atticus Records on August 25th, 2017 preceded by the single “Shooting For The Stars,” streaming now.
- 11/9/2017: Tucson, AZ @ Monterey Court (w/ Bob Cheevers, 8PM)
- 11/12/2017: Pasadena, CA @ Old Oak Cellars (w/ Bob Cheevers, 3PM)
- 11/13/2017: Burbank, CA @ Cody's Viva Cantina (w/ Bob Cheevers, 8PM)
- 11/15/2017: Paso Robles, CA @ D'Anbino (w/ Louie Ortega and Bob Cheevers, 8PM)
11/16/2017: Carmel, CA @ Barmel By The Sea (w/ Bob Cheevers, 7PM)
- 11/17/2017: Sacramento, CA @ Luna's Cafe (w/ Bob Cheevers, 8PM)
- 11/21/2017: Silver City, NM @ Tranquilbuzz Coffee House (w/ Bob Cheevers, 6PM)
- 11/22/2017: Taos, NM @ Historic Taos Inn (w/ Bob Cheevers, 630PM)
- 11/24/2017: Alamosa, CO @ The Society Hall (w/ Bob Cheevers, 7PM)
- 11/25/2017: Taos, NM @ Eske's Brew Pub (w/ Bob Cheevers, 630PM)
- 11/26/2017: Santa Fe, NM @ The Cowgirl Saloon (w/ Bob Cheevers, 8PM)
- 8/21/2017: Stephen Doster’s upcoming “New Black Suit” takes inspiration from lives of songwriter’s legendary friends passed, including Townes Van Zandt, Bill Hicks.
- 8/1/2017: Stephen Doster is inspired by lives of legendary friends Townes Van Zandt, Bill Hicks on “bittersweet,” “Byrds-ian” single “Shooting For The Stars.”
- 7/17/2017: Austin-based songwriter, guitarist, producer Stephen Doster celebrates lives of legendary friends on “New Black Suit,” out August 25th
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