Jamie Stillway: City Static EP Review

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Jamie Stillway: <i>City Static</i> EP Review

While she hasn’t made the splash that other finger-picked guitar players like Marisa Anderson and Daniel Bachman have done in recent years, Jamie Stillway has quietly built up a strong discography. Her few self-released albums nestle into the fertile ground where jazz, folk and country cross-pollinate and hybridize. And until recently, Stillway’s instrument of choice was the industry standard: the acoustic guitar. But when she hit her 40th birthday, she treated herself to an electric and started quickly experimenting and writing. The result of this new toy and Stillway’s playing with it are captured on City Static, a delightful EP out on Portland, Oregon label Fluff & Gravy.

The sound of her electric guitar has brought out a languid mood for Stillway. The plucked out melodies, sweetened with the right touches of reverb, are unhurried and gentle, like the slow walk back to reality after spending a long, sun-soaked day among the natural world. That puts these songs slightly at odds with the EP’s title, but in that sense, a flowing, circular tune like “The Good Seed” or the bobbing “August” become reminders to not let the pace of life in a major metropolitan city take away your moments of calm and drift.

Breaking up these tracks are short ambient tracks—each one titled “STATIC”—that fall in and out of focus, hazy touches that call to mind Music For Airports or those stretched out interludes that reside between the volume blasts of Loveless. It sets Stillway and her music into a more post-rock mode, to be mixed into a DJ set alongside tracks by Papa M or Tortoise.

Her connection with Fluff & Gravy, the home of beloved roots-rock artists like the Parson Red Heads and Richmond Fontaine, could be the thing that brings Stillway a much bigger audience than she’s had in the past. Yet nothing about this release feels like she’s striving for anything that lofty. She seems like she would be equally happy busking on a street corner or entertaining friends in her living room as she would playing to a packed club or theater. Like so many of the best solo guitarists, Stillway clearly just loves to play and that desire to make a beautiful sound from the six-stringer of her choice radiates from City Static with every sliding note and cottony drone.