The sophomore release from Tall Dark Stranger chronicles the journeys of the good ship Contra Mundum, a brave vessel determined to stay on course in a world devoid of a North Star.
At the helm is songwriter and lead singer Dee Allen, who found that the theme of honest conversation kept recurring in the lyrics to his new songs. “I had noticed how often words are used to flee from understanding, rather than to seek it,” says Allen. “When a new or challenging idea comes up, people will often fall back on an easy cliché, rather than wrestle with it. So, the person who speaks about things as they truly are finds himself ‘against the world’, hence the album title.”
Contra Mundum continues the Tall Dark Stranger tradition of blending both musical genres and eras; a reflection of Dee’s diverse tastes as a music fan, and experiences in multiple styles. Listeners will hear elements from a broad musical map, from wide-open guitar rock (album opener "Electrons"), to moody Peter Gabriel-style pop ("Tear This Castle Down"), to a heart-rending piano ballad with a haunting string melody ("Love in Chernobyl"). The overall result falls somewhere between classic rock and 80's power pop, with a hint of blue-eyed soul.
Allen is joined by ace guitarist Brian Smith, whose contributions range from high-octane rock shredding to Setzer-esque rockabilly, to ethereal soundscapes reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham. Bassist Ben Harper makes his debut as a lead vocalist on his self-penned tune “At Best”, while showing his 4-string versatility on tracks like “Right to Be Wrong”. TDS co-founder Will Allen lends his soaring vocals to create the band’s signature harmony sound.
The album also includes appearances by some of Nashville’s finest session and road musicians, such as Victor Broden (Thompson Square) and Eugene Moles (Hee Haw, Marty Haggard). Allen says, “One of the great things about Music City is the abundance of great musicians from every genre who want to contribute, out of a true love of the music. It’s like having more colors to paint with, and makes it easier to find the exact right voice or instrument to get the sound you wanted.”
One such group of guest stars is Dee’s sister Jamie and her four children, professionally known as Rockland Road. “Family harmony is known to be the best-sounding, so in addition to using Jamie whenever possible, I now have four super-talented young vocalists to call on.” Jamie and oldest son March are featured on “Thinking About It”. Dee’s father, Duane Allen of the legendary Oak Ridge Boys, lends harmonies on “At Best”.
Contra Mundum is set for release on September 18, and will be available on CD Baby, as well as all major online retailers and streaming services.