By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
As he tells it, Stinson hit an emotional wall around the time Jones was sidelined. “I‘d just broken up with the girl who all those songs [on Jack of All Heartache] are about, and had surgery on my ankle,” he says. “I was laid up with a cast on my foot, the girl gone off with somebody else, and I just wanted to fuckin’ die, you know? Couldn‘t play drums, nothin’. Was just hatin‘ life.”
Salvation appeared in the form of singer-songwriter Ramsay Midwood, who offered him a gig with his rootsy band Waynesboro, a fixture at Culver City’s cozy Cinema Bar. His foot healed, Stinson began tub-thumping with Midwood; after Midwood moved to Austin, Texas, in early 2001, Stinson moved to Waynesboro bandmate Randy Weeks‘ group. (He still performs with Weeks every other Saturday at the Cinema -- his lone extracurricular commitment.) That band also included former Lone Justice and X guitarist Tony Gilkyson and bassist Kip Boardman.
Filled with pain and armed with a portfolio of stomping, tear-stained country-rock songs, Stinson finally began fronting his own group in the summer of 2001. Late that year, producer Charlie McGovern recorded the no-budget yet crisp-sounding Jack of All Heartache with Stinson, Gilkyson, Boardman and ex--Lone Justice and --Emmylou Harris drummer Don Heffington in a succession of L.A. living rooms.
The album (still locally available only at Amoeba and Rhino) and the live shows that succeeded its release showcased everything Stinson does best. They introduced a catalog of tunes -- “I Can’t Call Virginia,” “Last Fool at the Bar,” “Six Pack of Lonely,” “The Desert of My Heart” -- steeped in Coors-drenched misery, sometimes leavened with low-key mirth, by turns fiercely rocking and tenderly subdued. Onstage, the material was animated by Stinson‘s aw-shucks demeanor and his oddly moving voice -- an adenoidal, wobbly drawl, frayed paper-thin in the upper register, that occasionally called to mind the uncertain pitch and heart-piercing impact of Ernest Tubb. The tunes were rammed home by a solid, unmannered rhythm section (today comprising bassist Lucas Cheadle and drummer Jason Moore) and unpredictably ornamented by Gilkyson’s what-the-hell-was-that? solo work.
This summer, as the pressure reading on the L.A. country-rock barometer soared, Stinson could be found playing almost weekly all over town -- the Cinema, the Silverlake Lounge, the Derby in Los Feliz, Taix in Echo Park, Topper‘s in Eagle Rock. In these gin mills and beer joints, he has introduced a new clutch of saloon-friendly songs -- “Take Out the Trash,” “I Can’t Go Out Anymore,” “I Don‘t Even Cross Your Mind” -- steeped in alcohol and anguish.
Killing another Silver Bullet, Stinson says, “People ask me, ’Why do you have to be so sad?‘ My mom in particular: ’Gosh, I‘m glad you’re writin‘ songs now, but do they all have to be so sad? It just breaks my heart.’ The type of song that moves me the most is that type of song. I‘ve got through my moody, depressed times, and then I realized that you can’t put that on everybody around you. Everybody‘s got their own shit to worry about, and they don’t have to deal with the black cloud that you‘re carryin’ around. So I try not to do that with people . . . but I do it in my songs.”