Uncut (p.111) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's most notable for Young's singing and writing debut. His superb southern gothic, 'Magnolias', a significantly darker cousin to Gram Parsons' 'Hickory Wind', stands out..."
Personnel: Steve Young (vocals, guitar); Don Beck (12-string guitar, banjo); Dennis Conway (percussion).
Recording information: 1967-1968.
Before Steve Young became one of the founding fathers of country-rock with his 1969 album Rock Salt and Nails, he was a member of Stone Country, a short-lived pop group that fused country and rock in a very different way. Stone Country's sole album, released in the spring of 1968, is a polished but intriguing mixture of sunshine pop, progressive country, blue-eyed soul, and folk-rock, all wrapped up in a slick package created with the best of L.A. studio craftsmanship (producer Rick Jarrard and arranger George Tipton, who both worked on the album, were also helping Harry Nilsson create his sublime early albums at the same time). Stone Country goes in too many directions at once for its own good, but it's clear that this was a band packed with talent and full of great musical ideas; the opener, "Love Psalm," is a delightful bit of psychedelic pop punctuated with some solid bluegrass picking; "Magnolias" is a gritty and unflinching portrait of life in the Deep South with a powerful vocal from Young; "The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde" is a musical synopsis of Arthur Penn's hit film of the day featuring some deft country guitar and banjo work; "Why Baby Why" is a solid George Jones cover with a heavy rock & roll stomp; and "Lizbeth Peach"'s baroque textures would do the Left Banke proud. The trouble with Stone Country is that while the bandmembers do everything here quite well (and they played nearly all of it themselves, without the help of session men), the eclecticism feels like a lack of clear focus and vision by the end of the album, and this sometimes sounds more like a bunch of talented individuals than a real group. But the best moments are a splendid example of prescient country-rock and West Coast studio polish, and Stone Country is a superb memorial for a group that had the talent and potential to do some pretty remarkable things. ~ Mark Deming