Stumbling Still Warm...

John Washburn

Wayward Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The American music scene has been filled with songwriters who pride themselves on being storytellers. Some of them capture people's hearts, such as Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan. Others try to capture the darker side of life and remind people that not everything is peaches and cream.

John Washburn is another in this long line of singer/songwriters. On his debut release Stumbling Still Warm..., he tries to capture a slice of Americana with a folk/country-tinged approach to his music. While he does show great promise in his craft, sometimes his approach to the music is a touch too soft.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As a singer/songwriter, Washburn has a familiarity about his music, yet it's difficult to pigeonhole him or to compare him to anyone else out there. He's not quite as rambling as Dylan, he doesn't have the flowing poetry or delivery style of Springsteen, he's not as dark as Tom Waits. At this stage in his career, I'd have to say that Washburn sounds like dozens of other singers in this same category of music who are fighting for recognition. This isn't meant as a slam against Washburn (or anyone else, for that matter), but it sometimes seems like Washburn is more interested in presenting himself to people rather than setting himself apart from the crowd.

Washburn's true power as a songwriter seems to come mostly in the faster-tempoed, more contemporary-sounding tracks. "It's Alright" is a pleasant enough way to start this disc, while songs such as "Fool For You" and "Sometimes Trouble" help to deliver Washburn's message the best. These work better than the skiffle-oriented "My Only Friend," a track which has traces of Lonnie Donnegan and good-ol' Western swing in it.

This being said, one of the prettiest tracks on Stumbling Still Warm... is "Wait (A River Song)," a track which demonstrates that Washburn can wax eloquent and write a slower-tempoed, softer-edged song that works well. The lyrics are pure poetry, while the music helps to carry the listener off into Washburn's world. The follow-up track, "She's A Lullaby," isn't quite as successful, but is still pleasant enough.

If only some of the other tracks had worked as well. "In The Rain" sometimes sounds like Washburn is having difficulty following the beat of the song, while others such as "Half My Life" and "Satellite," while not failures at all, just don't convey the same power and urgency.

For a debut effort, Stumbling Still Warm... demonstrates that Washburn has what it takes to make it, and it should be interesting to watch his progress as a songwriter and a musician.

Rating: B-

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wayward Records, and is used for informational purposes only.