FATEA Magazine – Beaudesert Album Review

Steve’s one of those names you feel you ought to know – and probably you do. Milton-Keynes-based Steve was a familiar name on the 1980s London music scene, after which he took a sabbatical to raise a family, finally returning in 2002 with a well-received singer-songwriter album Cut And Run, the success of which he followed up with 2005’s Building Bridges. Both of these albums characterised Steve’s modestly heartfelt yet clear-sighted writing and performance style, which encapsulates life experiences in honest and straightforward language and backed by unaffectedly simple acoustic-driven instrumentation.

Those positive aspects haven’t changed over the subsequent years, and nowadays Steve’s viewed as a reliable UK singer-songwriters with a solid reputation for well-crafted songs loosely inhabiting a satisfying roots-Americana styling and as entirely comfortable within that milieu as his audiences are. I’ve noted a further progression in Steve’s writing from album three (Boy On A Beach) through to Beaudesert (album five), in that his words and ideas have become altogether more sharply focused, and this latest collection can therefore likely be counted his most accomplished in that regard.

There’s an attractive immediacy of expression to the more observational of the songs, those which might best be termed tributes-cum-character-portraits (Last Train and Geordie Trawlerman) and the evocative title track with its telling juxtaposition of beauty and barrenness, a theme that tends to inform much of the rest of the album. A sense of wistful reflection pervades much of Steve’s writing too, as on Places In The Sun and the darker What’s A Sign For?, and we can both readily identify with Steve’s questioning of reality on songs like He Won’t Go and appreciate his acceptance of life’s ambiguities on Nothing Ever Stays The Same.

For backing, Steve has scaled things down from album four (The Ungodly Hour), ringing the changes this time round by engaging as producer the highly-regarded Ben Walker, who brings his own sensitive mandolin, mandola, piano and organ additions to Steve’s clean, crisp guitar work, and further gently enhancing the texture on seven of the tracks with cello (played by Hilary Fielding). All of which gives the album an appealingly unified sound. The slight downside to this is that its very consistency feels a little too comfortable on occasion, especially on the inevitable minority of songs which don’t quite stand out from the rest (if you see what I mean). But the album’s virtues will still reveal themselves more on repeated plays, of that you can be sure.

David Kidman

Review link: http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/2014/SteveGifford.html

No Comments

Leave a Reply