Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Stephen Simmons - Hearsay Locke Creek Records

Sometimes it’s baffling to understand release dates in the digital age but HEARSAY by Stephen Simmons is getting renewed press in the UK well over a year since its availability and a couple of months after its successor! Putting industry labels and distribution methods to one side, this seventh album by Stephen once again showcases a singer-songwriter determined to plough an integrity laced route of country music true to his beliefs and heart. Maybe this means he has to work a little harder to find outlets for his music including regular sorties into Europe but when a solidified connection is made between artist and listener then fruition of a lifelong journey comes to a head.

HEARSAY is your quintessential collection of storytelling country music, rich in influence and aiming to capture the soul of a late night jam with or without the addition of the odd tipple. Combining the heritage of his rural Tennessee upbringing with the travails of the road, the album is full of themes akin to both city and countryside dwellers. Awash with pedal steel and an attention to careful lyrical details, Stephen succeeds in smoothing the path to the listener’s ear offering a favourable deal for those with an insatiable appetite for dose of refined nostalgia.

The track ‘I’ll Be Your Johnny Cash’ will meet the approval of those who ears prick up to any mention of the Man in Black, although this time it’s Audrey Hepburn who replaces June Carter in the chorus. Stephen’s curious take on love leads us into the seedy world of establishments as laid out in the memorably titled ‘The Boobie Bungalow Gentleman’s Club’. One black mark with Stephen’s lyrical offering surfaces in the export of his music to the UK in the use of the word ‘spaz’ which has far more offensive connotations than it appears in the US. The sentiment of the song, ‘Stardust’ is to create a derogatory image with the words ‘jerk’ and ‘ass’ also used without the same degree of effect to us Brits.

Close your eyes and falling into the charm of the beautiful ‘I Ain’t Lonely (I’m Just Lonesome)’ is one of the albums true delights along with the informed and inspired narrative to ‘Horse Cave, Kentucky’ spinning a tale of a painted canvas of real life. ‘Hearsay’ the title track which opens this eleven song strong release, just pulling up a minute short of the three quarters of an hour duration, is reminiscent of much of the current singer-songwriter style emerging from East Nashville, with a fair amount finding a receptive audience overseas. Without an over use of country clichés, the ubiquitous serving of melancholy is presented in album closer ‘Just Like a Sad Song’ and, like much of this record, the track attracts your attention and leaves a lasting rewarding effect.

It has already been referred to that Stephen Simmons is an eternal music traveller and opportunities to catch him live come around frequently. Renewed press for HEARSAY will help present an album which will meet approval by those looking to kick back and immerse themselves in a sound keeping nostalgia relevant in this modern age. It also acts as a perfect introduction to his work and certainly entices seeking out one of his shows.

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