Stony Plain 2020
Canadian guitarist goes for the deed when the words ain’t enough and finds a glorious release.
“Upbeat blues” may seem to be an oxymoron, only there’s nothing paradoxical in the way it sounds – and Steve Strongman’s seventh album is a powerful proof of this point. Laid down in Nashville, TN and in the artist’s hometown of Hamilton, ON, “Tired Of Talkin'” has a very relevant air about the dozen songs gathered under a cover picturing him relaxed but ready to go, because that’s exactly the sort of music our stress-laden times need. Sure, the genre-defining clichés are aplenty here, yet that’s also what’s required of songs: to be rooted in reality and provide uplifting experience.
Nor for nothing the album’s finale comes in the form of its sole cover – Al Green’s velveteen perennial “Let’s Stay Together” – while the tight groove of its piano-sprinkled title track informs the drift with jovial urgency, Steve’s six strings getting in front of and behind the boogie, before “Paid My Dues” adds stylish abandon to his harmonica and reserved licks. Still, the less hurried “Still Crazy ‘Bout You” oozes sweeter warmth, as slider is rolling across frets, whereas “Hard Place And A Rock” and “Tell Me Like It Is” demonstrate Strongman’s firm grip on the Chicago idiom in the most impressive way, with guitar weave taking centerstage. Further on, “Livin’ The Dream” taps into the heart of commercial radio, but “That Kind Of Fight” directs the flow to a softer, acoustically driven, increasingly solemn strum.
Even more countrified, “Highway Man” finds the Canadian at the Crossroads, unaccompanied, channeling Rory Gallagher, yet earlier than that, “Just Ain’t Right” shuffles slyly towards funk, and “Can’t Have It All” turns negativity into streamlined, if infectious rockabilly. As a result, the organ-oiled “Bring You Down” is devoid of depression and full of hope: here’s upbeat blues in all its glory. Talk is cheap – which is why the world should want a Strongman now, and Steve serves up the goods in spades.