You could be familiar with the work for Chris Stills for a couple of reasons – you might have heard his music before or perhaps you’ve even seen him on the silver screen. Known as both a talented musician and actor it seems as though Stills has an endless capacity for creative flare, having originally learned the piano and the drums, picking up his first guitar at the age of 12. Since then he has produced a host of albums, the latest of which is Don’t Be Afraid.
As the son of the legendary artist Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame, it’s little wonder that Stills has so much talent flowing through his veins. His latest album is painted and presented to the world like a moving dreamscape, his guitar riffs as rough as brush strokes but as refined as the finished piece. Planting himself somewhere between folk and country rock, Stills brings to life a sound that is fuelled with raw power and it bursting at the seams with energy. These bounding, resonant, hard-edged songs like Blame Game seem to have the kick of a mule and really get your blood pumping through your veins. However, Stills is a versatile and fascinating performer and while these boisterous tunes are at his disposal, so too are a collection of softer and more tender, melodic songs.
Songs such as In Love Again are soulful and pluck at your heartstrings as easily as his own guitar. These finely honed tunes are arguably the propulsion for his talents but it’s when Stills sings that he really catches you. Soft, passionate and tender at times while harsh, assertive and furtive at others, it is this rich versatility within his vocals that makes his every song so deeply appealing. Don’t Be Afraid is one of those rare albums where you never seem to come across that one track that you skip to get to the next good song – each and every song is stunning in its own right although there are some that do manage to stand above the rest. Arguably the best song on the album is the title track, Don’t Be Afraid, a rich and organic song that is so carefully refined and layered with orchestral piano scores and a vivacious melody that seems to reach to you through the dark. It’s the pinnacle of the album but the album itself will be the pinnacle of any day.
Stills might come from a rich musical heritage but with this must come an unprecedented amount of pressure within the public eye. The fact that Stills has carved his own niche within the folk industry and isn’t compared to his father’s work is a wondrous feat in itself as he goes out and makes his own name in the world.
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Review by Joe Knipe