Wednesday, May 9, 2012
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: STEVE STRONGMAN - A NATURAL FACT
Now, being an excellent guitar player is worthy enough in the blues, but that's just one part of Strongman's make-up. He's a strong songwriter, who comes up with numbers that sound as if they are already established classics. His new work, the acoustic-guitar workout A Natural Fact, features songs you'd swear you've heard before, because they have the feel of Delta classics, or Chicago standards. I looked for famous names in the writing credits, but just found Strongman. He's no copycat; I can't think of another song that includes the theme of You Do It To Yourself, a fast finger-picked number here, but it has all the qualities that will attract any blues fan. My favourite is Can't Go Back, about the dumb things we say sometimes: "Have you ever thought now, why'd I go and say that? And as soon as the words leave your mouth, you wanna take 'em back."
I've seen him live a couple of times, both solo and with a band, and he's a winner either way, with a fine voice, and a sneaky command of the stage that builds up until you realize you're fixed on him. With all this going on, it's time for the playing to shine. The new disc showcases his acoustic work, with lots of picking, skillful slide, and a driving rhythm style. There's also lots of his smooth harp playing included, and with him already proving himself in so many areas on the disc, I'd accuse him of showing off by adding that skill to the mix, but I've met the guy and he's humble, too.
About half the tracks on A Natural Fact are solo, and the rest feature a tight backing group of just bass, drums and piano, so it's not a busy album, nor a show-off festival; it's all class. Speaking of class, the wonderful Suzie Vinnick shows up for a duet on the cut Leaving, a great sparring number. And a hats off to producer Rob Szabo, keeping it, in the best sense, real, and letting this all-around talent shine.