Steven Blane is an interesting guy: singer, songwriter, audio book producer and rabbi. He just dropped two albums, I Confess and The Shed Sessions. This is a review of the latter album, which was recorded in a shed in Lake Worth, Florida.
Stylistically, Blane fits in the Americana category. But there’s more going on in his music than simply Americana. There’s a pop influence in there, along with a 1950’s rock vibe that gives his sound a unique signature. It’s much different from the usual run-of-the-mill stuff most bands turn out today.
“Any Kind of Fool” is the first track. It starts out with some slick guitar riffs that set an upbeat melody. The tune has a Johnny Rivers or Everly Brothers feel to it; not only in the throwback melody, but also in the way Blane sings and phrases. His voice is smooth and strong and clear. The subsequent tune, “Manhattan Melancholy,” slows things down with its jazz influence and a melody that seems right out of the Café Trocadero.
“I Couldn’t Sleep” kicks the music up again, with a bouncy acoustic guitar-driven melody. Blane’s vocals are laid-back and easy to listen to. The guitar solo in the middle of the song features some smooth licks that demonstrate Luba Dvorjak’s virtuosity on his instrument. On the next track, “I Hung My Head,” the music turns a bit dark and heavy. The melody takes on an Americana/dirge feel, which complements the lyrics. Even though it’s a mournful tune, I liked this song very much.
“Pink Martini,” a bluesy rocker, carries an Elvis influence. It reminds me of one of the spoof tunes Elvis would perform occasionally is his movies. “A pink martini with a blue umbrella.” The tune includes background vocals that sustain the fun of the song.
“Proclaim Liberty” has a definite Americana feel, almost balladic in its energy. The melody is simple but effective; and Blane really struts his vocal range on this tune. And I really liked the way the guitar accents the melody as the song progresses.
“More Than You” has a Chris Isaak’s vibe; Blane’s voice is deeper, with a muggy tone that adds a remote nuance of uneasiness to the melody. In contrast, the next track, “These Priests,” inserts the uneasy factor into the lyrics, as “priest pray with a wink.” Another good song: an Americana melody, catchy lyrics – “these priests” – and Blane’s gospel-like phrasing.
“Warm Thighs” reminds me of a Marty Robbins tune, where the vocalist relates the tale of his encounter with a femme fatale. The melody has a south of the border feel to it. Blane provides stellar phrasing here, as he communicates and reports on the wiles he fell prey to.
The last and tenth track on the album is Blane’s cover of “Earth Angel.” Blane’s interpretation is a bit slower than that of The Temptations, and I like his falsetto finish as the song closes.
More good stuff!
I really enjoyed The Shed Sessions. Because of the 1950’s rock vibe, the music is at once nostalgic and distinctive, without invoking the dreaded pejorative of “oldies.” The songs definitely remind me of another era, but there’s enough of a contemporary pop feel to the music to make it seem new and different, while at the same time pleasant to listen to.
In short, Steven Blane has it going on! Excellent stuff! Don’t miss The Shed Sessions. You’ll be sorry, if you do.
Find out more about Steven Blane here.
Download The Shed Sessions here.