By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
According to maverick Nashville producer R.S. Field, Max Stalling "reminds me of artists back when I lived in Austin in the '70s who existed outside of any groovy clique but still managed to fill up places like the Broken Spoke, the Split Rail, and Gruene Hall with regular people. I like artists that don't bend themselves into pretzels trying to be cool, good ol' fuckers who'll never be a topic of pillow talk up at No Depression magazine but nevertheless manage to keep selling records and tickets to bikers, hippies, cowboys, sorority sisters, soccer moms, family men, wildcatters and broke down old glumps like me."
To put it concisely, Max Stalling is unapologetically uncool. His songs possess a plainfolks simplicity that appeals to an audience that exists far from the trendiest clubs and latest downtown hipster fads. There's a throwback vibe to it all and a veneer of genuine decency. To say Stalling's songs are introspective would be a Hall of Fame understatement. Despite a decade in Dallas, Stalling has—at least in his music—never lost the feel for Crystal City and the surrounding dry-land ranches where he grew up. A thinly veiled literary substitute for Crystal City, Topaz City reveals that Stalling's idyllic view of the old hometown has matured, that suddenly he's no longer able to idealize "the run-down beer joint/The stoplight with no point" as anything but what they are—signs of small-town decay and neglect. Stalling has always had a resigned sadness in many of his songs, and tracks such as "Lank & Lonesome & Low & Loose at Both Ends," "Goodnight Never Meant Goodbye" and "How Blue Can You Go?" are the equals of any songs he's ever written. With Field's sure hand at the controls, Topaz City is easily Stalling's most satisfying and complete record yet—even if it is unashamedly uncool.
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