Album Review: Stoney LaRue - “Onward”

Red Dirt stalwart is back with a record which touches on some new territory after a few tumultuous years.

Stoney LaRue has been making records for nearly two decades now and the red dirt artist came up through the same Stillwater, Oklahoma scene which brought Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland and The Great Divide into the musical conscious and sporadic Mainstream success. LaRue’s talent as a strong frontman comes through on this, his sixth studio album and an interesting moment happens midway through the album as the Bluesy duet “Meet In The Middle” features country music icon Tanya Tucker, the Grammy-winning singer whose comeback was just starting when the Delbert McClinton-like song was recorded. The shuffling “Message In A Bottle” deserves radio air play in Texas and Red Dirt markets as it has a strong, Marty Raybon meets Merle Haggard like vocal from Stoney married to some classic barroom piano fills and jarring steel guitars as he sings about giving up the ghost that has become his addiction to alcohol.

Ace Nashville-based songwriter/singer Gary Nicholson procured and co-wrote this record and the opener “You Oughta Know Me By Now” is a biographical tale of LaRue’s shortcomings in relationships and the fact that he’s owning up to his mistakes and has that laidback, classic country feel to it. “Falling And Flying” is a song that’s familiar to anyone who has watched the film “Crazy Heart.” This song, written by Nicholson and Stephen Bruton, too feels autobiographical in the hands of LaRue. It’s a “sorry, not sorry” kind of tune with realities of the similarities between the high and the lows (at least for a little while). Another familiar bluesy tune, “Worry B Gone,” is all about chemical alterations and was recorded first by Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney on Willie’s “Moment of Forever” record from 2008. It has also been recorded by one of its writers, Guy Clark. A well-travelled song, LaRue honors the song’s pedigree (Co-writers are also Gary Nicholson and Lee Roy Parnell) with a fine vocal performance amidst the Dr. John-like New Orleans ragtime melody.

On a record with many strong moments, it is “Thought You’d Wanna Know” where Stoney LaRue shows the most vulnerability and honesty in the lyrics as he delivers what is essentially a timeless love song. The Bonus track of “High Time” closes the album and serves as a tribute to the departed too soon Red Dirt legend Brandon Jenkins as a duet between the two friends. It’s also a good closer to an album which is a lost growth and coming out a cloud and funk through the help of those who love us most and this record overall feels like that too, as Stoney LaRue worked through some serious personal things and has come out owning those things and using them to grow and deliver a strong album which stands amongst his best.