The opening song of this, his sixth album, immediately finds the Welsh wizard back on more familiar ground after the horn-laden Hearts On Fire, his previous album (which was recorded with the South Austin Horns). The song opens with a robust riff of twanging Gretsch before Rees' distinctive vocal tells the tale of litigious Welsh vocalist Dorothy Squires, who was once married to Roger Moore. This is the first song that underscores the steadfast characters who people the songs and sentiments of Stand Fast.
The other key instrument in his armoury is the banjo which is often paired with electric guitar. This gives his music it's roots and grounding. There are comparisons, to a degree, with such powerful fellow travelers as Slim Cessna's Auto Club and 16 Horsepower, yet Rees is standing fast to a path that runs back to his previous albums and the creation of his recognizable sound. Christopher is a man in control of his destiny and direction, as he is a multi-instrumentalist only joined, for the most part, by drummer Dan Tilbury to create the layered sound that is the core of this record. Playing live he utilizes a full band, as occasion demands, but recording he builds the sound from the ground up. He is also the producer, engineer and mixer on the album which makes for as very personal sound and substance. The songs sound in structure as if they had their origins in the ages, that they are updated traditional songs. In truth only one song I Will Follow follows that path. The rest are original songs and many are memorable and are among the best he has committed to public scrutiny.
They are dark, thoughtful songs of understanding and undeniable humanity. There is much in the landscape of Ree's imagining that is true to his Welsh heritage, but that will also resonate with Appalachian undertones. It is an album that opens in fine style, but one that then plays out in a context that allows his vision to be strengthened over the full ten tracks.
It is an album, a unit, but that is not to say that individual songs do not stand out. For instance the trumpet on Knock On My Door gives an extra edge to the song's heartfelt plea for love and longing from a reluctant recipient. It is the sound that echos the borders of Mexico as much as it might with a lone trumpet in a band hall in Wales
Rees is a striking solo performer but adds much to the resonance of his recorded work by remaining true to an original vision. Released next year, Stand Fast is staking it's place to be heard and understood for the powerful piece of music it is.