Mike Blair and the Stonewalls
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Mike Blair and the Stonewalls

Wilmington, NC | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Wilmington, NC | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Americana Alternative




"Just a Piece of Mike Blair and the Stonewalls: "The Print""

"Here I come! Here I come!"

Most “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” fans are familiar with The Roots’ lyrics that open the show. Mike Blair and the Stonewalls are of the ilk and hope to one day hear it live in the studio while waiting out their anticipation back stage to be announced as the night’s musical guest.

If there is one thing that this band isn’t shy about, it’s admitting their love for Questlove (drummer, music producer of The Roots). I got to join in on the admiration while sitting down and chatting with half the members of the Stonewalls. It might have been Mike dropping a “Pelican Brief” reference on me over the phone while we were setting up the meet that assured me I was in for a candid interview.

Mike holds merit to his namesake as writer, acoustic guitarist and vocalist for the group. Long-time friend and former bandmate Michael Graham is an engineering mastermind when not busy handling the electric guitar. Also a genius of production is Nathan Purifoy, who taps the keys at live shows. Keeping it a family business, Blair’s sister, Sarah, contributes her talents to writing and singing, while Graham’s brother, David, is an artist beyond just playing the bass. The soul of the Stonewalls is the jazz-influenced keeper of the rhythms, Keith “Sexy Bear” Butler Jr.

The camaraderie runs deep between the Stonewalls, and it shows on and off stage. Though Mike, David and Keith were the only ones present at the interview, they still talked about the other three as though they, too, were with us. Audiences who have been captivated by the band’s Americana style and Blair’s soulful voice can delight in knowing that the band has immortalized their talents in the form of their first EP.

Four of the six members have had experience in a band setting before. Sarah is new to the practice, and David explored his music as a hobby. Mike and Michael had joined forces before and even recorded together in a previous collaboration. Nathan participated in many musical ventures, including the side project he currently has with Michael.

Local audiences may be familiar with the beats that “Sexy Bear” lays down, because as David says, “Keith played in every band possible.”

“I don’t play in every band,” Keith interjects. “But, I mean, I’ve played around with Charlie the Horse, Justin Lacy and the Swimming Machine, and I was in another group called B-side Breakdown with some other friends from school.”

Being submersed in the realm of performing locally gives the Stonewalls a chance to feed off of other talent and relish in the support from fans. “It’s interesting,” Graham explains, “and I say that because I’m the oldest member in the band, and I remember a lot of what Wilmington’s music scene has been and what it’s gone through. . . . There was a really, really good music scene at one point, and from about that point onward it’s kind of hidden itself a little bit in terms of the really good talent. There are a lot of bands, including us, who go out there and play the songs we write, and that’s good to me. Wilmington could have stayed in that little funk and just become really horrible as a music scene. I think a lot of it was a lot of fresh college kids keep coming in and out of here, and a lot of them like to play, a lot of them like to write. There’s a lot of creative people. So they’re now getting to the point where [they say], ‘Well, let’s take it back over.’”

“The Print” is the title of Mike Blair and the Stonewalls’ debut album. It harnesses five dynamic songs and showcases the hard work and dedication of each band member, who made this record happen.

“The most proud I’ve ever been,” Blair exclaims. “I’m excited about it on a lot of levels, but I think in a year I’ll look back on it and go, ‘cool.’ I mean, there’s going to be parts of it I want to change because that’s maturing, I guess. In like a year and a half, my musical ideas for the band are going to be completely different. But I’m happy with it. I’m very pleased with it. I hope people respond to it. I hope it gets people to shows. That’s why we kind of wanted to make it ‘The Print,’ like it’s not us. It is us, but it’s not live Friday night or Saturday night.”

“What was it Michael said?” David rhetorically asks. “It was like you want the Mona Lisa, but you can’t have the Mona Lisa, so you get a print of it. Yeah, you want what you want, but you can’t have it so here’s as close as you can get to it. That was kind of the whole concept behind the name.”

Blair pledges that there will be numerous more albums to come, including an LP to be released in the fall. He ensures there is plenty of material sprouting from not only his head but his sister’s as well.

“I feel like everybody’s worked real hard to get this album done. And I feel like everybody’s worked to get this band where it needs to be. I think it’s an attribute to all of us being adults. This is our first time being adults. . . . My constant thought, my last word is this EP is us, but it’s not. It’s us for right now—the 2011 version of Mike Blair and the Stonewalls.” - Encore Magazine

"Album Review: Mike Blair and the Stonewalls "The Print""

If there’s ever bad news to be heard the blow would be greatly lessened by having Mike Blair sing it to you as an impromptu song. In all fairness, Blair can sing about pain and heartache and make it sound, and likely make you feel, like a spring day. No matter the lyrics, his voice takes it to another place, as if tricking you out of feeling the reality of his lyrics. That’s not to say all of Blair’s music is melancholy with sugar on top, it’s simply that Blair has an indelibly soothing voice.

Blair has been playing music in the area for years and his voice is akin to a huskier James Taylor and a vocal timbre that’s like a sweeter, less obtrusive version of Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz. Musical explanations aside, Blair is his own singer, he’s competent and confident. The work with The Stonewalls exemplifies his songwriting as well as temperament for crafting (along with a cast of solid musicians) acoustic based music that comforts and just as easily puts the sway in your spine.

“The Print” is a gently textured EP of five songs about regret, errors and fractured love. Blair sings with reserve on “Tell Me Again” – “Tell me again about how you don’t love me as much as I love you.” Blair delivers a narrator in need of facing the pain of a dying relationship repeatedly to somehow make it all go away. On “Believer” he sings of personal failure and delusion. “She lied and she played the role,” he vocalizes with sorrow and necessary distraction.

The best song is “I Won’t Be There” which highlights the strengths of the band at the helm of “The Print.” It paints a vivid image of losing the closeness of a partner and the inability to let go. Musically it’s a pleasant, strolling number yet it’s about something gut wrenching, about having to live apart. For such a brilliant song that’s deeply sad and musically tender, Blair and the band play it with considerable moderation. Sarah Blair’s discreet backing vocals on it make it all the more haunting and desperate. The love song “Do You Want Me” takes the theme of intimacy to a far more appealing, and subtle, place that’s sorely missed in popular music. Blair sings, “Slowly you let me hold you/To feel the ocean in my chest,” and paints a clear and simple picture. “Daisy,” written by Blair and Sarah Blair is a near anthem given its chorus but its story about a man in prison waiting to come home grounds the feel-good vibe of the song.

Years ago Blair released “Burning Down Rome,” a live recording that could nearly have played like a studio album if the crowd were removed. Blair’s playing on it not only revealed a solid musician but an equally solid performer, someone at ease with a crowd and with himself to be open and honest. That honesty and sincerity comes through in the songs on “The Print” five years after “Burning Down Rome.” With “The Print” as evidence you get bittersweet and tender served up as real life with a great soundtrack. If real life be troubling then Mike Blair and The Stonewalls make it a lot more tolerable for the soul. - The Star News

"Mike Blair and the Stonewalls "The Print" Review"

Mike Blair, local songwriter/crooner, along with his rock steady band The Stonewalls, has released a hot out of the oven 5 song EP The Print.

This is an earthy, soulful mix of originals sung in the earnest and emotional voice we’ve come to expect from Blair. Recorded in Whiteville at The Usual Studios, it’s a family affair. Mike is backed on vocals by his silky voiced sister Sarah Blair. Bass is covered by David Graham while his brother Michael plays tasty guitar and piano. The group is rounded out by Nathan Purifoy on keyboards and drums and Keith Butler adding percussion.

The sound is in the fashionable Americana camp. Tight treble guitars, heavy back beat drums, crisp acoustic guitar with an underpinning of pulsing organs. Blair and sister have air tight vocals sung over catchy melodies, like “Daisy” which Mike co-wrote with sister Sarah.

The disc starts with light guitar and drums on “Tell Me Again” where Blair keeps touching the sore tooth of heart break, “So, tell me again how you don’t love me as much as I love you”, challenging his partner to give him the gut punch he knows is coming.

Next up is “Believer” a jazz tinged number that speaks of misplaced righteousness, in a secular sense but the story soon evolves into a more personal betrayal. Again, the high tight guitars and an organ bed accented with light drum touches. “I Won’t Be There” is sonically similar, another pretty melody floating a boat of hurt, the singer rejecting the one who has rejected him. It’s the old “I broke up first” from the one who didn’t want to in the first place. Brutal.

The searcher continues on in his quest for love and acceptance in “Do You Won’t Me”. Nice bending guitar notes with heavy reverb gives the song a haunting mood, hanging in the shadows of Blair’s vocals who still wants to trust but doesn’t seem quite able to.

We end with “Daisy” as a respite from the alienation expressed in the earlier songs. “Daisy, I’m a comin’ home to you”, someone incarcerated, looking forward to his girl and the impending birth of their child. Okay, prison can be a bit alienating but whose splitting hairs? Rightly, this is sung as an anthem. If you’re getting paroled, seeing your lover and your baby, hell yeah, sing on.

“The big print giveth, the little print taketh away” is one way to describe this record. The song structures and melodies draw you in but the subject’s details belie the beauty. It takes courage to express one’s hurt, and you don’t want to sledgehammer the listener with your woes. Blair and company have done a fine job of taking personal, emotional material and dressing it in palatable well played songs, songs that warrant repeated listening and exploration. You can put that in print. - The Beat

"Jam of the Day: Mike Blair and the Stonewalls - Tell Me Again"

There is something about the spring in Wilmington, North Carolina that is filled with energy. Yet, it's peaceful in a way that draws your mind back once winter’s final breath is complete. The days are warm, sunny, and breezy – typical for a coastal southern town. But as the sun dips below the horizon, the air begins to cool as cicadas start their nightly song. The resulting feeling is palpable, and heartbreaking to anyone who's spent more than a year in the Port City and decided to leave.

“Tell Me Again,” by Wilmington’s Mike Blair and the Stonewalls, stirs that affection, drowning all lyrical meaning with its smooth rhythm and silky phrasing upon first listen. But by the third spin, the true meaning of the song shifts to the front, and you’re left with the same emotional dichotomy as the memory of those long-spent seaboard nights. Is it beautiful or depressing? Soothing or painful?

I think the only realistic answer is yes. - Speakers in Code


The Print - EP (2011)



The Stonewalls surround Mike Blair like the perfect fitting sports coat with a tight, clean sound that showcases the talented musicians uniquely soulful voice. The sound is powerful, surrounding the vocalist/guitarist, Mike Blair, with a richness that permeates the room. Blair approaches his songwriting with a vulnerability that translates on stage. The honesty and emotion in his performance captivates the crowd while the enthused folk vibes of the Stonewalls take the crowd to their feet. The six-piece ensemble includes two sets of siblings, Mike Blair (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Sarah Blair (vocals) and David Graham (bass, vocals) and Michael Graham (electric guitar, vocals) and close friends Nathan Purifoy (keys) and Keith Butler Jr. (drums).

Band Members