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Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart – Dedication

Lisa Ward


4 years since their last release, and celebrating the 20th anniversary of their collaboration, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart return with Dedication. True to form it harnesses their joint harmonies, whilst also taking a step away from other albums to showcase each of their voices separately. With more of a piano focus than before, the album is a reflective offering, which sometimes hints at fiction whilst also delivering an overwhelming sense of loss.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on The Flag, with Stacey almost speaking over a picked guitar rhythm as she recounts the story of a son from childhood, through to his loss at war; a heartbreaking number which speaks of real pain. Meanwhile, Mark’s lead vocals on the follow up track Broken Heart For Two seems to speak back to Stacey’s sense of pain, and as he sings out ‘the world needs a change/war rages on/a child needs a father/now you are gone’ the comparisons become more prominent.

The more melancholic Here Comes The Pain is nestled against Here Comes The Rain, which has a more positive sense of making the most of what you have, in turn creating an equilibrium.  Stacey’s voice becomes more robust with the latter, moving away from a childlike sound not too dissimilar to Nanci Griffith and combining with a solid drum beat to carry a greater sense of conviction. Elsewhere Workin’ On It, led by Mark, offers a bit of break from the melancholy, again almost replicating Here Comes The Rain and leaving the album feeling like a series of songs which in turn inspire another.

Nevertheless it’s the dual vocals on title track Dedication which provide one of the highlights of the album. With less focus on each artist individually their harmonies blend and become more reminiscent of the duo’s earlier work. However It’s here a sense of friction also becomes apparent, and though it’s not clear if this is purely fabricated or a more personal reflection, it sets the pace for a sharper split in vocals in the following songs, which results in an album brimming with a sense of separation, whilst simultaneously retaining a sense of cohesion.


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