Steve Mayone,
Unfortunate Son
(Umver, 2005)

The songs on Unfortunate Son sound familiar, especially if one has heard songs that came out of the folk scene in the 1960s and '70s. This is not because Steve Mayone is covering music from then, but because his songs sound and feel similar to other songs from that era.

Mayone (vocals, guitar, bass, piano, mandolin and percussion) is backed by a rotating group of musicians, with only Jeff Bealin (drums, percussion) and Pete Weiss (guitar and keyboards) playing on more than three tracks. The others are Mike Piehl (drums), Duke Levine (guitar), Steve Sadler (dobro and lap steel), Jimmy Ayan (mandolin and vocals), Jonas Hahn (guitar), Clare Buason (fiddle and vocals), Lex Price (guitar), Michael Hoppelman (bass, accordion and vocals), Bow Twayer (banjo and vocals), Jeremy Curtis (bass) and David Rizzuti (pedal steel).

There is a retro feel to "Beautiful & Dangerous," and both the music and the way the music supports the lyrics just brings that sense home. "I Am" starts off simply with vocals and guitar, then builds a sense of emptiness to match the words. The despair described in the lyrics of "Black Poison" dovetails music that could have easily come from the folk scene of the '60s.

The gentle music caresses "You Can't Look Inside of Me," as the song speaks of loss and the distance between people. There is hope in the music and lyrics of "Pocketful of Promises," which provides a subtle contrast with the songs before it. This feeling builds through "I'll be Alright," as the hope becomes more visible.

The drums give "End of the World" a strong drive, and the music is an excuse to jump up and down. The music slows down with "Time to Think" as it reminisces of days gone by. They switch over to bluegrass with "Truckee River," the words of a man who was a bit unlucky in love.

There are glimpses of sorrow and loss in "Another Lonely Day," as it shows a life in contrast. Once again, these emotions build to form a near tangible edge in "Hour of the Pearl" and the soft touch of the music adds to this feel as much as the lyrics do. The music goes off on a tangent that is cold and harsh after the words end. "A Part of Me" is a beautiful farewell, simple and impassioned.

The familiarity and the emotional connections from one song to the other are a part of this CD's strengths. The songs are new, they just sound like they have been around for a while just waiting to be heard.

by Paul de Bruijn
26 August 2006

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