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Thad Cockrell | Stack Of Dreams (Miles Of Music)
Originally recorded with the intention of producing a demo, such was the success of the sessions that the results eventually formed the bulk of 'Stack Of Dreams,' Thad Cockrell's debut. Amazingly seven of the tracks featured here were recorded in just one day and they're so good that it was obviously more than just hard work that was responsible. Such is the maturity of both his songwriting and performances that you'd think that Cockrell had been playing and recording for years, but although 29 years old he's actually a musical latecomer who has been playing for just 5 years, writing his first song as recently as 1997. Obviously a quick learner, his talents have attracted other exceptional musicians, his Starlite Country Band features former Whiskeytown drummer Skillet Gilmore and guests on the album include both Tift Merritt and Gilmore's former Whiskeytown colleague, Caitlin Cary. Whilst they undoubtedly make memorable contributions to the album it's Cockrell's own forlorn tenor voice and songs, rendered more impressive by the fact that this is his debut, which ultimately make this album such a pleasure. Strengthened by stunning guitar and pedal steel from Jon Kemppainen and Cliff Swanson respectively, Thad Cockrell & The Starlite Country Band sound like they've been playing together for their entire lives.
Former dB, Chris Stamey, who produced the album, should obviously get some of the credit as well having elicited such accomplished performances and recorded them in such a short time. Featuring the tough Honky Tonk of Hard Time Takin' This Heartbreakin', the fiddle-led Why? and the gospel duet He Set Me Free with Caitlin Cary on backing vocals, 'Stack Of Dreams' is literally that and more. Admittedly with just 9 tracks to savour this particular stack is a little short, but hopefully Thad will share more of his dreams with us next time around. On the basis of his excellent debut that's an enticing prospect.

Geraint Jones
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002