greg steps - Always A Drifter
Australia is a big place, roughly the same size as the Continental United States. The Australian Outback is more than 2.5 million square miles, with only 10 percent of the population dwelling there. It is remote, expansive and mostly devoid of people. You can see why Greg Steps is attracted to running: either running towards or away from loving relationships. Each song on Always A Drifter deals with isolation and intimacy. Greg Steps comes across like a musical gunslinger, breezing into town, pushing in the batwing doors of the saloon, ready to save the day or break some hearts.
Steps refers to the music on Always A Drifter as "lo-fi folk rock,” but I think he's got a rather daunting definition of "lo-fi", as Steps' guitar rings, bites and snarls with clarity and heart, as do the backing instruments from Ash Brody and Shane 'Widow' Whitson, recruited from the Melbourne band The Beegles.
I once had a friend look me dead in the eyes after hearing a song I'd been working on, and told me, straight up, "strumming is dead, dude.” Greg Steps shows us that this is not a universal law, as the strum-und-drang intros of "Dry Spell" and "Leave Your Loves Behind" come on like a tsunami wave, a wall of sound that hypnotizes and captivates, placing you in an arid and vast land. You can practically smell the earth cracking. It's minimalist folk rock, acoustic guitar as mantra and meditation, which puts you in the right frame of mind to receive Steps' tales of love, loss, triumph and self-knowledge, delivered in a distinctive and memorable voice.
Of course, the angels are in the details, as is the case with any records, like the way Steps overdubs a handclap on the word "thunderclap,” on "Dry Spell.” The man clearly knows his own songs, and has spent some time on the arrangements. All of this serves to create a cohesive songworld with Steps acting as a storyteller around the campfire.
Once you're won over, you begin to notice the specifics, like the gnarly, biting blues guitar of "Always A Drifter" (my personal favorite), the rather accomplished piano on "Dry Spell" and "Letter To My Younger Self,” or the moving gospel harmonies of "Leave Your Lovers Behind.”
Fans of classic artists like Neil Young and Bob Dylan will dig this as well as other Australian artists like Tame Impala or The Go-Betweens, with a similar pop sensibility and ability to evoke wide open, expansive landscapes in the mind.
Always A Drifter is the sound of growing up, making your own way in the world, trying to stay true to yourself, to follow your dreams, while skirting judgmental glances, nasty rumors and the toll it can take on love and relationships. Always A Drifter may come off as a modest lo-fi EP, but this songwriter has ambition and dedication that will carry him across deserts and oceans.
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