In the face of life's disruptive forces Tres Altman, The Paper Stars' frontman, found solace in a creative imagination. The sounds and the stories of The Paper Stars reflect these kinds of spaces - where words and music meet in that dusty first light of dawn. The Stars' album, just released this spring, is full of these kinds of ancient books and pungent wisdom whisked from a life well travelled. The Paper Stars embody this image of the opening of the eyes and the taking-in of light. Illustrated otherwise, they are a catalog of human emotion punctuated by visions of a man taking responsibility for what is his. And in the final chapter of this band's provenance, this tale is about taking control and carving your own, authentic road. After playing in other players' bands such as Boulder's Slowrosa, Tres Altman decided to make a move from the back of a rhythm section to front his own band. Sure, it has proved to be a large step, yet if The Paper Stars songs are any indicator - Altman is doing just fine. Humble and always smiling, Altman is not the kind of guy that's going to pronounce his greatness to the world. Instead he prefers a more blue-collar route: of always working, pushing and seeking to find his authentic voice. As one could imagine, the shift from singing in the car and in the shower - to singing in front of whole rooms full of eyes and ears, could be intimidating in the least. But this is exactly what Altman has done. And while this component, Altman's voice, appears to be a point of vulnerability - his inflections, tonality and cadence couldn't be more perfectly suited for the Stars' sound. A new frontman, Altman does have the character, the verve and the work ethic to lead a group of players. The path his life has lead has proven to those around him that he is more than capable of overcoming adversity. And the community of people and players that he's immersed himself in provide some astute mentoring, support and cushion from the world around. But most of all, Altman's interest in being of service to those around him - near or afar - is propelling him forward, as a leader and a humanitarian. Talking with Altman about his music is to also speak with a human about living in the world. Focusing on responsibility - Altman takes to heart the notion of being able to respond to a situation - any situation. On stage, or on the street. In the mind, or in the heart. Altman's songs are vast - in sonic dimension and lyrical aptitude. Without a doubt, Altman has a grasp on that mysterious place where the words and music intersect. Brilliantly and moreover amalgamated to a near-perfection in The Paper Stars' catalog are pieces like "Tornadoes in the Snow", which is a compelling example of both Altman's lyrical pen, his vocal inflection, and exhilirating arrangements all meeting in that ethereal place of wonder. Tornadoes in the snow/They will blow you away. At once earnest in that ultra-human pursuit of making things right - and making an attempt at anything honest, The Paper Stars is a collection of sounds and stories; perfunctory calls to everything elevated. Both transcendent and secular. Altman's lyrics wind through western canyons of love lost and every dawn of solace washed in bright lights. The Stars' songs are strong. They are voluptuous and dense. And while that's not a tremendous surprise when you're backed by an extraordinary violin player like Jeb Bows, or a lap steel player like Jack Leahy, or a back-up vocalist like the attentive Julia Sanders. In this, Altman is blessed - to have the players that he does to help round-out the sound. But this is also a testament to the quality of people that he has surrounded himself with. Constantly gazing at a goal of authenticity is an honest way of living. It's a mode of moving that is always testing you; letting you know that you're not quite there yet. And while The Stars' album hasn't received anywhere near the critical acclaim that it should - this is only step one. Altman knows this. His sound has only begun development.
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