ABOUT THE NEW CD (Link to Bio)
I'd like to play like Blind Blake. Never will equal the pure joy of the legend, but I'll die tryin'. Song Beside My Grave is really what started this whole album idea and the guitar part is based on a Blind Blake thumbroll. I did the track in my apartment very late at night and figured it to be a demo because my equipment is awful but regardless of what or where I recorded after, it never had as good a feel as on that night. The piano was out of tune a little and I used the wrong mic, go figure.
For the rest of the stuff my apartment would not do so I sent some demos to Etienne de Rocher and he agreed to produce the album. We started out in Athens, Georgia, recording vocals and guitar live off the floor with Andrew Borger on drums in a house-come-studio called The Bakery. Had a lovely time that weekend so the whole thing started on the right foot.
The album is dedicated to Seth Koller, a student of mine who died in an accident at the age of 16. The song Movin' is about him. I also dedicate the album to Mike Morrison, who died recently at the age of 70 from unknown causes. He took us up to Frostbite Falls a long time ago in New Hampshire and I still go back there every year just about. We gotta rock hop upstream to get to Frostbite so we only go when the brook is low...
**Napa Uptown Theater (with BB King, Keb' Mo')
**Bimbo's San Francisco (opened for JJ Cale)
**Villa Montalvo Garden Ampitheater, Saratoga, CA (opened for Keb' Mo')
**Courthouse Concert, Riverside, CA (opening for Etta James)
**Mystic Theater, Petaluma,CA ( with Jimmie Vaughan, Tommy Castro, Taj Mahal, Leon Redbone, Joe Louis Walker, Tower of Power, Dan Hicks, Suzy Bogguss)
**Cafe du Nord, San Francisco (headlines periodically)
**Hopmonk Tavern, Sebastopol, CA-opening for Leon Russell
**Oaksong Summer Concert Series, Oak Run, CA
**Villa Montalvo Carriage House
**Swallow Hill, Denver (show with Guy Davis)
**Little Fox Theater, Redwood City (with John Hammond)
**Knitting Factory, LA
**Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA
**Islands Folk Festival, Vancouver Island
**John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room, San Francisco
**Knitting Factory, New York
**Biscuits and Blues, San Francisco (frequent performances)
**Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA(Double bill with Ruthie Foster)
**Rancho Nicasio, Point Reyes, CA
**Rockford Mendelssohn Hall, Rockford, IL (Charlotte's Web production Stiles headlined)
**San Diego Street Scene
““Remember the name JL Stiles. The San Francisco via New Orleans songwriter is the real deal ”
“Catch him while you can...JL Stiles an artist on the rise...brings a modern polish and quirky writing to his songs. ”
““While his blues chops may have gotten him through John Lee Hooker’s door, it’s the introspective harmonica and guitar ballads that best show off hi songwriting...coolly crooned in between harp licks over homespun finger-work on a 12-string acoustic” ”
“JL Stiles's "Without You" is a cool breeze of a pop rock song that could get heavy radio play some day. Even better is the San Francisco songwriter's "The Orphan Song," which recalls Taj Mahal's playful country blues numbers, and "Sunny Old Day," a song that twinkles with steel drum sounds.”
““His exquisite guitar playing is like falling in love and his songs are treasured mementos with words to keep you pondering” ”
“In a time where it seems rare to find a singer who sounds extraordinary, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Stiles is completely satisfying as a solo artist... Stiles seems too fully engage the room”
“The tracks on 'Solo Sessions' achieve an earthy authenticity...simultaneously classic and original”
“Stiles plays with such a quiet unassuming style that at first you don't realize how good it is...Clearly he's done something right; 'Solo Sessions' is an unmitigated pleasure”
CD Review--Solo Sessions
"Jimmy Reed. Mississippi John Hurt. Ted Hawkins...JL Stiles? Well, maybe.
On his all-acoustic second disc for Shoeless Records, the San Francisco based guitarist aims for the generally sunny style of these bluesmen, and hits the mark dead on. While other young guitarists seem intent on proving how fast they can play a lick--an ill that's hardly unique to the blues--Stiles plays with such a quiet, unassuming style that at first you don't realize how good it is. In fact, Stiles who took up the guitar at age 18, downplays his own ability. Still, he's been playing for 14 years now, and he is, in his own words, 'a diligent son bitch'"
Clearly, he's done something right; Solo Sessions is an unmitigated pleasure. In its restraint and modesty, Stiles' music harks back to his New England roots; the Southern inflection comes from a several year stint in New Orleans. The West coast, in contrast, doesn't seem to have made much of an impact. He's a good songwriter, and everything on Solo Sessions is his, except "Trouble I Had All My Days" which closes the album. The Hurt influence is most audible in the sweet melancholy of 'Never To Grow Old" and "Fellow Grove" has a similar emotional intimacy. In fact, all the songs have a deceptive simplicity that recalls an earlier, more innocent age, and even if such an age never existed except in our imaginations, Stiles takes us there, if only for a little while. While his fame is mostly local to Norethern California and his audience is still very much the indie set, it seems likely that will change. He's shared stages with such luiminaries as Keb' Mo' and Corey Harris, and it's easy to predict that Stiles' time in the spotlight--a gently glowing luminescence, to be sure--will come.
Genevieve Williams, Blues Revue
DIY Top 12
The music created by JL Stiles doesn't sound at all like what one might expect from a white, Jewish singer-songwriter born and raised in Connecticut ... especially one who didn't start playing the guitar until he was 18 years old. His rubbery, expressive baritone sounds closest to the sweet croon of the late bluesman Ted Hawkins, and Stiles lays into his 12-string guitar with the vigor and ambition of a streetwise punk who just discovered Leo Kottke. Add in the winsome harmonica and the carefree, riding-the-rails folk song structure which Stiles employs, and the 12 tracks on Solo Sessions achieve an earthy authenticity. His music emerges, most likely unconsciously, from the hazy notes of forebears like Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Richie Havens and the defunct college rock band Miracle Legion.
Simultaneously classic and original, JL Stiles aids his cause by penning personal, personable lyrics taken from his worldview and philosophy. In Nothin' Here for Me, the cocky troubadour surveys the wealth of his new hometown, San Francisco, and confesses that he's most at home hanging out with the hippies at the BART station. In Fellow Grove, he sings about his childhood pastime of rounding up golf balls at a country club and reselling them to the pro shop. Stiles may take his style from the rural side of America, but his sensibility remains true to his real roots.
Live Review of Stiles at the Knitting Factory, Hollywood
J.L. Stiles The Knitting Factory Hollywood
Armed with only his earthy warm baritone, a guitar and harmonica, JL Stiles is exactly what you expect from a blues singer, a self contained musician who moves his audience. At this show, Stiles played an equal mix of original pieces and traditional blues. This [show] is supposed to be a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, he told the crowd. No skin off my back, I play him anyway.
While Stiles own songs, like Fellow Grove and Nothin' Here For Me (which narrates a trip to the mall before a friend's wedding to look for something nice and cheap on the gift registry) have a more modern quality to their lyrics, they have old souls. But Stiles also shows a slightly slicker, more polished side on tunes like Land of the Plenty, which is vaguely reminiscent of early Eagles.
Musicianship-- If it weren't for his appearance, listening to Stiles' gritty, twangy voice, you'd swear you were hearing an old bluesman like the late Ted Hawkins, to whom he's been compared. In a time where it seems rare to find a singer who sounds extraordinary, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Stiles is completely satisfying as a solo artist. He uses finger-picking to great effect to add texture to his music, and with a 12-string guitar can recreate the sound of a piano in an Old West saloon.
Performance-- Sporting an understated maroon silk shirt and black slacks, it's clear that Stiles is just about the music. As Stiles blows on his harmonica, both his feet start stomping in time, and his eyes focus in a wide-eyed stare-those of a man obsessed with the blues. During the show, Stiles seems to fully engage the room with his music and humorous chatter. He closed the show with an impressive display that wowed the crowd, playing his six-string by tapping the frets with both hands to produce a dulcimer-like sound.
JL Stiles is a unique animal who for the first time is merging two totally different fields of truth seeking: Ragtime blues and higher mathematics. Both of these disparate strands filtered through a lifetime on the run, searching for a universal truth from psychedelic Brazilian forests to US college campuses and further into his own unique vision. JL Stiles has a mind that sees music in a similar way to how J.S. Bach saw music. However, Bach never played the blues.
As for the blues: JL has opened for many a blues great, including BB King, Etta James and JJ Cale. Surprisingly, looking at such a history, most of his originals would not be considered blues or folkways yet Maybelle Carter, Blind Blake and the rest of his honored forebears haunt everything he does, including his upcoming song-of-the-ages album, JL Stiles presents House of Murmurs, on which producer Etienne de Rocher (Sean Hayes) plied his remarkable talents. It's a bit confounding to box a one-off like JL, so the artist decided to mostly reserve his stunning ragtime and blues guitar madness for his other band, Hobo Paradise, which tears the house down regularly in San Francisco.
JL's touring history includes a consistent presence on the West Coast and currently expanding to a nationwide audience via his latest release, which has garnered national press and national radio play.