By Justin Vellucci
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Here’s the set-up.
The Pittsburgh-based soul musician known as Dr. D had just gone through a break-up a while back and was looking to get back out there.
One night, when out on the town with a young woman, he got a text from his ex-girlfriend and, frustrated, closed his tab and ended the date, going home by himself.
“I just sort of let it ruin my night,” says Dr. D, who by day is a civil rights attorney – we’re guessing under a slightly different name. “I was so mad at myself, letting something from my past affect my present and my future.”
Frustrated, the good doctor poured himself a whiskey – and another – and wrote the song “Energy,” which is now a single that the soul septet he fronts, Stone Throwers, is self-releasing on streaming platforms Aug. 7.
“Late last night, I was thinkin’ bout how you done me wrong/ Rolled outta bed to scribble down this song,” Dr. D sings on the track in a smoky near-falsetto over twinkling keyboards and sensual, if subdued, horns. “I can’t give you more of my energy/I must treat my heart more carefully.”
The song has a casual, jazz slinkiness to it and emotive, dueling male/female leads compliments of Dr. D and guest singer Rosanna Spindler of acts Buffalo Rose and Scott & Rosanna. (The track was produced and mixed with a careful ear by engineer Chalk Dinosaur.) The new track, though, is miles removed from the last Stone Throwers single, “Game,” a banger in many respects of the word that was accompanied by a fun-loving little video. That is by design, the band says.
“I want it to be vulnerable and honest,” Dr. D tells the Pittsburgh Current. “It’s a resolution to do better, to not let yourself be drained of energy.”
“While we do have a lot of songs like [“Game”], I wanted our recorded work to reflect the diversity of moods we explore,” he added. “The moods are there, if you want to hear them. And the soul groove’s there, too.”
One of the more understated details of the song, which does roll into a kind of medium-heart boil by its close, is the colorful bass line from four-stringer Simon Howard. The notes, which are far from spotlight-stealing, at once restrained and deceptively florid.
“I guess that’s sort of the bass player’s and the rhythm section’s role in the band,” laughs Howard, a Rochester, N.Y. transplant who co-founded Stone Throwers a few years ago with Dr. D. “What is the groove? When we’re writing music, that’s my number one priority.”
Howard likes the mood of “Energy,” whose jazz club incantations flirt with the emotive soul stylings of Bill Withers – minus, maybe, the staccato hip-hop vocal delivery about halfway through the tune.
“It’s a little bit different than ones we normally do,” Howard says. “This one? It gets there. But it’s got a nice, slow build.”
The new one-off single will be available through Spotify, Apple Music, even Deezer. Dr. D jokes that he doesn’t know anyone who’s listening to the band much on Amazon Music but they’re planning on putting it out there, too.
“You can say, ‘Alexa, play Stone Throwers,’ and we’ll come up,” Dr. D jokes. “And that’s alright.”