Chadwick Stokes’s new solo album, The Horse Comanche, is a wonderful blend of Paul Simon and the Beatles—and that combination makes pure Stokes. Only his second solo studio album, The Horse Comanche sounds like that of a accomplished veteran. It is, though most of Stokes’s work is as frontman of the bands Dispatch and State Radio. This 2015 release confirms he can do great work as a solo artist as well.
His 2015 effort is really something new for Stokes, a different sound with a wonderful melding of influences. The result is a complex and compelling album with lots of layers, and it reveals more and more with each listening. That’s the recipe for a rewarding album, one worth getting to know well. Peculiar little songs like “Dead Badger”—you’ve guessed the subject if you think the inspiration is from a dead badger—take a while to fully appreciate, though the result seems like the discovery of a classic in the making. The songwriting is a clear strength here.
Tunes such as “Pine Needle Tea,” ”Mother Maple,” and “I Want You Like a Seatbelt” not only show their homage to songwriters such as Cat Stevens and Paul Simon but they also show Stokes as a songwriter worthy of that heritage.
The Horse Comanche is very different from Stokes’s work with State Radiothe and their reggae-inflected and the experience may be jarring (at first) for those expecting more of the same. It is certainly rewarding to find such a solid album though, no matter how you come to it.