Steve Leaf releases his debut cd

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

  I first met Steve Leaf at Uncommon Ground, in Chicago, one cold day in February, 2009. It was the first show of a three-week tour I was on, and Steve was running sound for the venue. After the show, he casually slipped me his email address, for inclusion on our mailing list. Over the next couple months of writing him occasional emails about the happenings of my band, I learned that Steve also played music. I invited him to come play my bi-monthly songwriter night at Phyllis' Musical Inn, on Division Street. I didn't have any idea what to expect from his music, really. I had heard a sample that he had sent, but I still wasn't sure exactly what I was in for.
  That twenty-five minute performance absolutely floored me. It's hard to say exactly what it is about Steve's songs that I love. I have a feeling that the thing that draws me to his music has a great deal to do with the way he writes his melodies. They are always perfect, or as near as one could get. And always just what the song needs.
  Steve is putting out his first solo album soon. He sent me a digitized copy recently, for review in this blog. After seeing him play three or four times over the last year, I knew it would be good, and that i would like it. What I didn't know was that I wouldn't be able to stop listening to it. This is helpful in the writing of a good review- that one actually listens to the songs a number of times, to see how they strike upon first, second, and seventeenth listen. I think I listened to this album twenty times before I sat down to write the first draft of the review.
  The album begins on a somber note, with a tale of disillusionment of established religion and established ways of thinking. When Steve sings 'I believed all this, until my family fell apart', there is that spark of raw emotional honesty one rarely hears these days. That one spark takes off like wildfire through the rest of the song, and the remainder of the album, consuming everything in its path. There are occasional moments, allowing the listener to breathe, but these breaths only add more oxygen to the fire. This collection of songs is a wildfire worth watching.
  For this album, Steve has drawn upon the vast pool of talent of friends between Chicago and his homeland of Michigan. The eleven tracks feature absolutely incredible players, with a vast range of instruments- from guitars and drums to cellos, dulcimers, and saxophone. Despite this diverse instrumentation, this does not sound like the work of an amateur indie-art band, using a plethora of instruments in order to seemingly make the statement that the wider variety of things you play, the better your band is. Every instrument here is placed with precise knowledge, and vast use of restraint. Steve knows when to stay quiet, and when to let loose. This is a rare talent to find in music, and life in general, one could surmise.
  From my understanding, the album was built over the span of seven months, in two states, and six different studios. It's always fascinating to me when I hear these sorts of stories, because the thing just sounds so together. Technological wonders never cease to amaze me. From so many different areas comes one unified collection.
  I feel that I must share a portion of a q and a session I held recently with Steve via email. I asked him a bit about his musical background, to better understand the making of this album, and he shared this answer with me: "My musical background is checkered to say the least. It's a bit schizophrenic to be honest. Did I want to play Dave Matthews covers? Yes. Did I want to be the next Thom Yorke? Yes. Do I enjoy asking questions and then quickly answering them? Yes. Cutting my teeth musically had a lot to do with figuring out what kind of music I want to play and for what reasons. With the release of this album, I feel like am finally in a place where I am incredibly comfortable playing the music I make. I am proud of that. Playing music to me is about being honest with yourself and those around you and hoping those intentions transcend the song and transmit out to somebody."
  I love the honesty and good humor in this response. I'm calling it now. Steve Leaf is a name to know in coming years. It is interesting to note, this sense of comfort. When you see Steve perform, there is a sense of absolute comfort, not only with the songs, but also with life, and all those engaged in the living of it. While the subjects of these songs deal with a lot of uncomfortable issues, one ultimately gets the sense that here is an artist who knows exactly what he is doing, and where he wants to be at this moment musically. This is a refreshing thing to hear, because in the spots when one could draw a quick parallel to Dave Matthews, there is also a sense that this is not someone trying to be someone else. This is an artist who is uniquely comfortable with his own work, and the songs he has written.
  The standout track on the album is a song called 'Recruits', which is an unashamed criticism of the middle class suburban lifestyle. I can't help but feel chills when I hear this song. The saxophone is perfect here, a hint of hopelessness and longing. It's nothing short of awesome.
  All in all, in this reviewer's opinion, the album suffers only one slight misstep. The closing track, (an instrumental which makes prominent use of whistling) while interesting as an idea, does not hold up to the high standard set by the remainder of the album.
  I cannot stress enough how good this album is. Listen to it on headphones late at night. Listen to it on Sunday drives in the country. Listen to it wherever you are. This album is waiting for you. While it wont get as much press as the new Cold War Kids, or Alkaline Trio albums, I can assure you with unwavering conviction, that this is better than the both of them. I know that I will still be listening to this cd in ten years. It has all the markings of a classic. But don't take my word for it. Have a listen yourself.



  The album comes out tomorrow. This is a must purchase for anyone who likes well crafted songs.

  For more info on Steve, and where to find his music, please follow these links. Steve's website or on Myspace, or Facebook

Steve Leaf
We Are Ghosts

1. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
2. We Are Ghosts
3. Searching
4. Banjo Diddlies
5. Wait, no, GO!
6. India Pale Ale
7. Sunday Procession
8. Rob the Baptist
9. Recruits
10. Chicago
11. I Would Love to Stay

Steven Leaf- Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Kevin Gibbons- Vocal, Saxaphone
Kristen Holtschlag- Violin, Viola
Chris Dorman- Dulcimer
Brandon Foote- Electric Guitar
Kate Wakefield- Vocals, Cello
Patricia Smyka- Vocals
Pee Wee- Drums, Bass, Piano

with backing band- guitarist Ryan Anderson and drummer Mark Zoller, from Go Long Mule

Monday, January 25th 8:30PM
The Root Note
155 4th St. South
La Crosse, WI 54601

Tuesday, January 26th 10PM
Up Front and Company
102 E. Main St.
Marquette, MI 49855

Wednesday, January 27th 8PM
Bridge House
100 E. Montezuma Ave.
Houghton, MI 49931
w/ This Is Deer Country

Thursday, January 28th 8PM
Higher Grounds
806 Red Dr. Suite 150
Traverse City, MI 49684
w/ Chris Dorman

Friday, January 29th 8PM
(SCENE) Metrospace
110 Charles St.
East Lansing, MI
w/ Seth Bernard, Chris Dorman, Gifts or Creatures

Saturday, January 30th
Elbow Room
6 South Washington Street
Ypsilanti, MI
w/ Chris Bathgate, Alex Hug

Sunday, January 31st 4PM
Art's Big House Show
6273 W. Reynolds
Haslett, MI 48840
w/ Art Cameron, Them Damn Kids ShareThis

Comments (0)

Post a Comment