Lush and Low-Key

Pushing Stone (Independent)


By Tim Roberts

The following talking points are to be used in any and all discussions of Hipmonk's current release, Pushing Stone. Discuss them in any order you wish. Commit them to memory, but don't tell anyone where you got them. That way, you can come off as erudite and eloquent. Or stuffed with fresh meadow muffins.

Sound on Film: The music of Hipmonk is low-key without being lachrymose, subtle without being obscure. If it were a part of a movie soundtrack, you would hear some of the songs in the scenes that take place in an emotionally drained young male character's apartment late at night after his heart has just gotten the living crap kicked out of it and he's sprawled out on a couch, staring at a TV tuned to a shopping channel. The phosphor-screen flickers bluish tints onto his face. You might hear the more upbeat selections as he drives off down a strip of busy interstate into a new life, right before the scene cuts to black and the credits roll.

So Pushing Stone is "Music to Slack By" from Slackers? Hardly: R. Scot Payne, Ph.D., is a neuro-pharmacology researcher at the University of Louisville. Kirkby Tittle (under his alter-ego Kirby Gann) is the author of Our Napoleon in Rags and The Barbarian Parade and is managing editor of Sarabande Books. Patrick Donley is a painter and graphic designer. These are guys with busy professional careers. They only sound like they lounge around on a smelly couch, playing endless rounds of Doom before heading out to Taco Bell for some after-midnight munchies.

Bright, Shining Examples: The sparkling acoustic guitars that dip into minor chord changes on "Too Poor." The snap and crisp percussion and vibrant harmonies on "I Don't Remember." The late-night lounge piano of guest performer Joni Wilcoxon that melds into lonely guitar twang on "Broke Kabala." The snarling blues riff that underlies "It's You."

Shuffle, Deal, Reshuffle: Hipmonk consists of R. Scot Payne and Kirkby Tittle on guitars and vocals, Patrick Donley on bass, with Matt Barnett on drums and Jim Baugher as guest bassist on several tracks. This is the second iteration of the band. An earlier one performed around the Lexington area in the late 1990s. Tittle and Donley are part of Louisville's Jakeleg, for whom Payne wrote several selections on their Pour Me to Bed and Junkyard Café releases. Payne has also released two solo albums earlier this decade, Completely Blue and Sci-Fi Guy.

Summary (or the line the band will probably use in its press materials): Hipmonk's Pushing Stone is lush and low-key, a solid piece of work from a set of Louisville's most experienced musicians.

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