As a soccer fan, I used to hear of a team called Real Oviedo sometime back. That about sums up my knowledge of the capital of the Asturias principality in Spain. Now I can add folk band Stormy Mondays to that very short list. They may come from a city you’ve never heard of but this band, comprising of five accomplished singers and instrumentalists, has already achieved big things. In fact they’ve achieved things that are out of this world, literally. One of their songs ‘Sunrise Number 1’ was played aboard the space shuttle Endeavor after they won NASA’s Space Rock contest.
But ask Jorge Otero, Pablo Bertrand, Danny Montgomery, Dani Menéndez and Rafa Sánchez and they might tell you that even that lofty feat is not their crowning glory. After all we’re talking about a band that’s joined the mighty Bruce Springsteen on stage; a band that’s been joined onstage by the peerless Slash of Guns ‘N Roses. In 1999 they became the first and only Spanish band to play at the iconic Woodstock Festival. Need I go on? I will. Otero, the Stormy Mondays lead, has been a guitarist for the legendary Willie Nile and a host of other notable American acts on their European sojourns.
One simple explanation for the band’s glittering list of accolades is their sheer musical brilliance. Otero not only sings, he plays all kinds of guitars, including the lap steel. Bertrand is a key wizard who has mastered the piano, Rhodes, Hammond organ, even the glockenspiel. The rest of the group is similarly musically skilled and diverse. With all those instruments you will expect their live show to be quite the spectacle, and it is. How can you get bored with eight seasoned artists on stage playing up to 20 different instruments?
And that same amount of professionalism, skill and fun is channeled into Stormy Mondays’ recordings. September last year they released a double EP entitled ‘Wading The River/The Lay Of The Land’. It is a real feast for the ears delivered in English, Spanish and Asturian and embellished with real guitars, piano, mandolins, harmonicas, horns etc. ‘Talking in My Sleep’ thrives on simplicity with an acoustic guitar blending with measured drums and quiet keys to produce a cosy cushion for weary ears. Otero’s voice is not much higher than a whisper but is just what the instrumental needs.
Next to caress your auditory nerve is ‘My Lil’ Darling’ which sounds more like what a Spanish Romeo would play under the balcony of a blushing belle. It is an honest serenade in which the crooner beckons his love to come away with him, to “run away with me, and be foolish and brave”. One of the more confusing, and therefore more enjoyable numbers on the second half of the double EP is ‘Moon Almost Full’. This Americana-flavored ditty teeters between a peaceful amble and a frenzied gallop before finally collapsing into the latter, complete with energetic shredding on the electric guitar.
What I’ve done is give you a lay of the land of The Lay Of The Land. I’ll leave you to discover the first installment of the record for yourself. You can listen to it here.
Find out more about Stormy Monday, including where they got their name, from their website.