Since returning to Chapel Hill, Chris Stamey's lived a double life as an artist and producer. It's not an unfamiliar couple of roles. In 1973, he hooked up with Peter Holsapple to create Rittenhouse Square and a few years later while in college at UNC started The Sneakers, with drummer Will Rigby and guitarist Mitch Easter. The Sneakers emerged just ahead of American punk, recording an EP and a full-length of bubbling, DIY garage pop that rumbled and rang, suffused with hooks. The band proved relatively short-lived, but offered a partial blueprint for Stamey's next band, The dBs, formed with Rigby and Holsapple.
A major precursor for REM, The dBs combined the power pop bounce of The Sneakers with the warm, jangling guitars of what would become known as Southern pop. While Holsapple and Rigby forged on, Stamey left the band after their two initial seminal releases, Stands for Decibels and Repercussions, releasing a trio of solo albums across the late eighties before beginning his second life as one of the region's most sought after producers, working with many of the Triangle's best acts (Whiskeytown, Tres Chicas, The Mayflies USA). Aside from a free improvisation album, Stamey's remained quiet as a solo artist until last week's release of Travels in the South. As richly melodic as you'd expect from Stamey, it's a sugary rush of pure joy from the archetypal jangle pop of "14 Shades of Green" to gentle, sonorous numbers like "Insomnia." A noted audio perfectionist, the album sparkles and gleams like a multifaceted pop diamond well worth digging.
For the release party, The Chris Stamey Experience includes drummer Kenny Soule and Mayflies USA guitarist Matt McMichaels, along with guest vocalists Caitlin Cary and Tift Merritt. Darren Jessee's new band, Hotel Lights, opens the show, which also features the Dr. Hypknotronic Projection Light Show. Tickets are $7 in advance and the show starts at 8:30 p.m.