Along with touring the world with Snow Patrol and playing a key part in the supergroup Tired Pony, taking center stage with his own record was inevitable for Troy Stewart. Rather than release a solo effort, the Texas native has assembled another supergroup in its own right, albeit an understated one. Stewart has brought together players who have worked with the likes of R.E.M., Belle & Sebastian, Elbow, and Emmylou Harris to create The Windsor Player, a fresh take on Americana.
The bandâ€™s sound is quintessentially Southern, with acoustic guitars and fiddles complementing Stewartâ€™s subtle twang, but there is a global influence that impacts the record. The band has more in common with Neil Young and Johnny Cash than modern country acts, and even though many of the lyrics describe bleak rural landscapes, the loneliness and hope that they convey are universal.
For a debut album,Â The Windsor PlayerÂ is quietly confident, unafraid to shun conventional song structures in favor of making every second and every instrument count. The opening track, â€œRelease,â€ for instance, builds from the sound of warming up to sparse acoustics and strings that augment Stewartâ€™s vocals.Â Â â€œPrayer for a Dayâ€ has a catchy pop sensibility, but rather than veer into the commercial, this band allows the uplifting swell of their instruments to provide just as much of the emotional impact as the lyrics. Other notable tracks include â€œEmpty Well,â€ a lament on distance that would ring true for any musician, and â€œJust a Song,â€ a fusion of funk and country that provides a smirking look into the process of songwriting.