The budding indie success of husband and wife Americana duo Shaun and Rachel Stief – aka The Stifftones - gives hope to songwriters and musicians whose dreams begin with raw performances at the local open mic. The two met in 2011 on that scene in and around their hometown of Greenville IL (pop 7,000), an hour or so northeast of St. Louis, began performing together and, officially formed the duo after getting hitched in 2018.
The Stiefs have been creating a folkloric story for themselves, building a following by performing in kitchens, at campfires and open mics around the country as Rachel worked as a travel nurse. Their eloquent, thought provoking debut single, the easy strumming acoustic ballad “Midwestern Town,” is a vibrant showcase for their gorgeous vocal chemistry, which eases back and forth from lush harmonies to an effortless back and forth with Shaun singing lead and Rachel echoing for emotional emphasis.
Not since John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” has anyone so eloquently expressed the existential dilemma and mental gymnastics of being rooted so deeply in heart and spirit to one’s bleak but beautiful place of origin that you can’t quite dream it away, despite knowing that your dreams probably lie beyond those confines.