The Company Stores is prepping for the release of their new album. It’s titled The Family Album and has a drop date of September 23rd. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.
The Company Stores
According to the band’s official website and other online sources, The Company Stores is a modern folk and blues band based in Charleston, West Virginia. The current band roster includes Ileana Ille (lead vocals), Matthew Marks (guitar), Michael Micucci (bass), Joseph Cevallos (violin and trumpet), Matthew Jackfert (keys, vibes, trombone, and other instruments), and John Query (drums).
A recent note on social media reports that the group’s name was inspired by “the store in Appalachian coal towns” in the 18 and 1900s when miners were paid in scrip or “coal money,” keeping them closely tied to working in the mines. It speaks to both the group’s heritage, the “gritty feel of their music” and the true meaning behind much of their material concerning the trials and tribulations of “the common man.” The act’s rockin’ resume includes a pair of previous platters including their 2017 disc Little Lights and their debut disc Rollin’ In which dropped in 2014.
The Company Stores’ signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres including Appalachian folk, blues, funk, gospel, jazz, rock and roll, “and other soulful roots music.”
The Family Album
The Family Album is an 11-track album and their third full-length release. On this album, the band is occasionally joined by musical guests Chris Clark on saxophone and Jodi Hall and Walter DeBarr on background vocals. The material here was mainly composed in the midst of personally traumatic times for Marks. His research into his ancestral roots can be heard in the tracks on this release.
In a recent e-missive Marks said: “This album tells a story of everything being turned upside down; both personally and across the country. Together we have been spending countless quarantine hours writing in the rehearsal room, growing as songwriters and musicians, and are getting excited to present what we think will be our greatest record to date.”
Ille added: “I am honored that The Company Stores chose my voice as a vehicle to express the stories in The Family Album. Each song is a collection of the people who have shaped us and the times that made us. I hope the listeners are able to connect with the musicality, storytelling, and creativity to feel at home when they listen to it.”
Marks, also the primary lyricist, concluded: “This album is about family. It’s about understanding the triumphs, failures, tendencies, and choices of the people who came before, in order to understand how to successfully navigate where you are going.”
Track by Track
The album opens strongly with “Savannah.” It’s a slightly jazzy, moody, keyboard-driven piece. The guitar work gives it a retro, Steely Dan, deep cut -like feel.
The second single off the album is “A New Leaf.” This intense audio offering focuses on recovering from the negative impact of tragic life moments. It has a retro feel yet remains current.
“Ways” is the first single off the album, and deservedly so. While some say it contains country-rock elements, your rockin’ reviewer feels it’s vaguely reminiscent of early Yellowcard. The lyrics concern the negative in life and how we deal with it. It’s dedicated to Walter DeBarr, who reportedly passed away after recording with the group.
The next number is the Latin-influenced “Maria.” This one is about relationships and patterns and is soundtrack-ready. Indeed, you can almost envision it as a theme song to a TV show about some Latina girl boss back in the days when L.A. was still part of Mexico.
“Old Dog” is a song that presents a pair of perspectives from the old dog and the boy. It is highlighted by standout guitars, interesting sound bites, and a happily subtle hint of funk and even hip-hop.
“Fathers” follows. It is an intimate, minor-key, multi-generational piece. Marks, who was raised by a pastor, notes: “It’s a very personal song, about my father, and his father. I am being as honest with myself and listeners as I could—baring it all.”
It comes complete with a bit of Spanish trumpet which, as confirmed elsewhere, adds a Spaghetti Western feel to it. This, too, is a soundtrack-ready track. Where’s Clint and his horse?
The seventh selection is the nigh-empyrean “Blue Tide.” This song concerns digging deep to discover one’s true self. The band’s signature sound remains welcomely consistent, and the music simply flows.
The eighth audio offering is “There Went The Neighborhood.” It is a rockin’, dramatic ditty about the fall of one’s childhood home and those with whom he grew up. Like much of the material here, it is undoubtedly worthy of multiple listenings.
“American Dream Girl” is a retro-influenced, prog piece with a creative noteworthy musical composition. This one essentially asks the musical question: “Hey, American Dream Girl. Who are you trying to be?”
Also included here is “Some Sunday.” It was written by Micucci, whose funky bass work gives it a welcome R&B feel. The vocals and instrumental work remain solid as the music goes in a slightly different yet fitting direction.
The quieter closing cut is “Castles & Cain.” The music here is a blend of both gospel and southern rock. The lyrics tell the tuneful tale of someone recognizing the human limitations of one’s biological heroes. It’s one final example of what the act can do.
Overall, the album includes meaningful, original, and oft’times personal cuts that effectively demonstrate the band’s overall abilities in terms of both individual talents and as a whole. It also sheds a little light on where the band has been, and where it’s going. So, check out The Company Stores’ The Family Album and immerse yourself in the “Blue Tide.”