RAW: Album Review – Earnest by The Stillsons

By Calen Vanstone

Hailing from Melbourne, Victoria, The Stillsons are back with their second album Earnest, after their well-received debut Circus. It is a forty-plus minute journey through varying genres and subject matter, with Justin Bernasconi and Cat Canteri at the helm, as well as Ben Franz (The Waifs) adding a unique touch.

This is not a CD bursting with originality, nothing on this record hasn’t already been done before in the realms of country, pop or roots music in the past twenty-to-thirty years. Despite this, the band’s energy and enthusiasm for their music is definitely noticeable, and appreciated, as what could have been potential bores are given a sense of fun or gravitas depending on the track.

Earnest is unquestionably an easy-listen. It is not a CD you would purchase to challenge yourself. The lyrics are mainly to blame for this. Tracks “John The Dogg”, “Nobody Knows You Tonight” and “Death Country” let the album down due to their shared lack of decent lyrics. Only some of the slower tracks, in particular “Nancy Jean”, and the closer “In Violence”, provide any lines worth pondering. The remainder of the songs are stuck in the middle; their lyrics do not inspire, but are not poor enough to bring down the song completely.

Despite all of this, the tracks “Deserve”, “Stillson”, “Rock For You” and “Show Don’t Wanna Know” save this album for me, simply because they are well crafted and instantly gratifying.

However, after the third and forth listens, I found that I began to forgive most of the lyrical issues and embraced the energy and enjoyment that seem to radiate from the band on the energetic tracks, and the raw emotion and delicacy on the more paced ones. I pictured smiles on their faces and feet tapping along, which in turn did the same for me. This is where I feel the strength of this album lies, not in its originality or storytelling, but in its joy for simply being heard.

Earnest is essentially high quality background music that could move to the foreground with some more engaging lyrics. I’d still recommend this though to anyone who prefers their music to simply enhance their mood whilst their focus is elsewhere.

Highlight: “Deserve”


  1. Don’t know what the reviewer was going on about in regards to the album’s lyrics, I found them to be really honest and direct and without poetic bullshit. What a shame, review could have been better for a great album.

  2. Callen Vanstone is rather like an amateur cook given great ingredients and then being confused with how to use them. His review of this album is too intellectual without being intelligent. Rather like the Janus, the double-faced deity of doors and corridors, his head pulls him one way, showing the readers how well-informed he is by pointing out defects, and his heart-strings provide emotional responses which pivot him 180 degrees: admitting that after listening a number of times he can’t help liking the freshness and energy of what he hears!

    The Stillsons work is fresh, vital, original, full of wit and humour, passion, and multi-layered surreal references. Do not let the ‘simple’ lyrics fool you – they begin in one place and soon take you somewhere else entirely. Their power is in the sophisticated interweaving of both lyrics and music to create great pleasure, feeling and fulfillment. Which of course even in the case of Mr. Vanstone began to win out in the end.

  3. Well, that’s how I felt, it’s all up to individual taste… hopefully this at least provides the chance for people to go and listen to it andm ake their own mind up.

Leave a Reply