Aunt Stella’s Ashes – Shades of Gray

Aunt Stella’s Ashes – Shades of Gray


North Florida’s Aunt Stella’s Ashes is a powerful hard rock five piece whose new single “Shades of Gray” builds on the considerable regional success they’ve experienced with a potent, streamlined rock track that makes a substantive musical statement while also packing a ton of commercial potential. The band is led by front man Tim Schichtel and features the dual guitar attack of Kevin Smerdon and Dano Spangler. Their style requires a top notch rhythm section to be most effective and they have that here with bass playing and drumming that gives the song an intensely rhythmic heart. The production underlines the sinewy and muscular aspects of this material to great effect and incorporates the vocals with the band’s musical arrangement in an artful way. “Shades of Gray” is a powerful new single from a band who are ready to parlay a growing series of prestigious live slots into a growing reputation as a live act far outside the North Florida area.

There’s no question this song is going to prove to be one of the band’s more powerful live numbers. The flexible, yet rugged rhythm section attack anchors a lot of the song’s potential from the first, but Spangler and Smerdon lash over the top of the rhythm section with biting guitar work and there’s some especially effective lead playing later in the song that never risks coming off self indulgent. It’s a common knock on this music genre, but Aunt Stella’s Ashes demonstrate real subtlety and an intelligent approach to song construction that never goes in for the obvious every time out. Instead, there’s a clear effort here to set themselves apart from those who practice a paint by numbers version of the form and, as a result, something truly signature emerges from this song.

Tim Schichtel began his professional musical journey as a guitar player, so his transition into a lead singer gives him a window into how a singer can best enhance the six string work without ever losing anything in the process. He keeps a relatively affected tone throughout the course of the song, but his phrasing is powerful without ever stretching the sound past the point of recognition. He makes sure to communicate the lyrical content with the clarity it deserves because this is another area where the band rises above the commonplace with well phrased lines that have something meaningful to say while dovetailing in with the music.

Aunt Stella’s Ashes “Shades of Gray” is one of 2018’s best rock singles and manages to capture a heaviness of sound and mood that never feels like formula or some sort of cartoonish pose. Instead, these North Florida musicians are clearly intent on using the hard rock style as a vehicle for communicating themselves with an ear turned towards artistry, conviction, and entertaining textures. The new single will, undoubtedly, give them a chance to have their music heard by a wider swath of the music buying public than ever before.


Michael Rand

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