Lessons Learned

Robert De Leo

R.E.D Records, 2022


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


When one thinks of Stone Temple Pilots, “country” is not a genre that comes to mind, although a listen to some of their work from 1999’s No. 4 and forward found that influence starting to creep in. But for his first solo album, STP bassist Robert De Leo has gone full country, sometimes with elements of rock, but most often feeling like playing with friends on a porch or bunkhouse on a hazy afternoon.

It’s the polar opposite of STP, and as such fans of that band may find it hard to adjust, but country-rock fans or those who feel close to reflective singer/songwriter confessionals will be drawn immediately to the warm textures and lightly meditative lyrics on love and sorrow and the emotions that bind us. De Leo is generally not a singer and so keeps to the acoustic guitar and bass here, leaving the singing to guests like Pete Shoulder, Tim Bluhm, Jimmy Gnecco and Kara Britz (who each get two songs) and Johnni Irion. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There’s no new ground broken, but there doesn’t need to be on an album like this; you could put it on in your truck on a September afternoon driving through pastures or cornfields, or a windswept gray morning on a Carolina beach, and it will transport you. Whether you have been fighting with the person you love most (“Love Is Not Made Of Gold”), wishing you could start over (“Anew”) or looking back on mistakes made (“Lessons Learned”), there’s a song or two here that will resonate with you.

Twice De Leo offers a nod to his other life in STP; first on “What Will Be,” a slow, spacy psychedelic folk tune with Gnecco sounding slightly like Scott Weiland; with some muscle, this song could have fit on Shangri-La Dee Da, and it’s not too bad, if a bit out of place after the first six songs. “What’ll I Do” is a similar but less effective approach in this vein, as is the blissful fadeout “Is This Goodbye,” which De Leo sings himself for two minutes before allowing for a three-minute string quartet (with what sounds like a fiddle) to close out the scene, like a hero in the movie walking wounded but alive toward the horizon as the credits roll.

The album sounds like something De Leo needed to make as a person, not as an artist making a statement or as a “look what I can do outside of my band” calling card. This means the songs weren’t built for commercial purposes and, as such, there really aren’t many hooks or melodies that will stick with you when the record is done. What will stick is the mood of it all; Lessons Learned is genuine, unassuming and enveloping, an album that is not comfortable per se but can bring you reassurance. It’s as far from STP as one can get, and it’s worth checking out when you’re ready for it.

Rating: B+

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