This is not just an album review, it is also an artist review of American folk singer Steve Noonan.
Although Steve has toured in Europe he has never arrived on our UK shores and this might be the reason why his name is not up in lights in the way it should be. I first became aware of him when I reviewed a Penny Nichols album in 2015 and felt that the standout track was "Leaning Back and Laughing" which was written by Steve and Greg Copeland. Subsequent to the review being published, Steve contacted me direct and asked if I would review some of his music. I was delighted to accept and this is the result.
Steve has been writing music and performing since the 1960's although he did take a thirty five year break returning to the industry in 2007. His start in music was with the Orange County 3 with Tim Buckley and the then 15 year old Jackson Browne. Today, Jackson Browne states very graciously that Steve was one of the two biggest influences on his music. High praise indeed!
This album charts his musical journey from 1966 through to 2013. He is not frightened of writing lyrics that battle headlong with current issues such as war, economic turmoil, a bit of self-deprecation and relationships. His lyrics are never less than honest and insightful and his voice has that mellow timbre, sad at times, that perfectly suits his style of music. His excellent guitar playing is exactly what you would expect of a talented musician with fifty years of experience behind him. He knows just how to wring out a melody and match it perfectly to the mood of the lyrics. On this album he plays most of the instruments and has written most of the songs too. No wonder he needed a thirty five year rest.
I am not sure that referring to Steve as a folk artist is a true representation of his music although it is possibly the closest adjective you will get to describe it. "What About My Heart" is arguably the best example of his cross over type of folk. A little bit folky but with some rock and blues thrown in for good measure! "You Can Live Without It" is a song about guilt which suits his voice in soulful mode absolutely perfectly.
As I wrote above, my first experience of Steve was the wonderful "Leanin Back an Laughin" a song title which is causing my spell checker immense grief and slightly different to the title used by Penny Nichols. As it was on Penny's album, this is my favourite track on Steve's album too and one I would just love to hear live. His somewhat laid back style would make for a wonderfully entertaining evening of great music and stories.
Overall, this a superb album full of feeling and heartfelt sentiment. The strap line on Steve's website states "socially conscious americana since 1966." This is not a boast but a pretty good description of his music and his journey. He sounds like the type of person that I would really enjoy spending an evening with and listening to his music. Steve undoubtedly wears his heart on his sleeve with his lyrics and he has been described as a good man. Could anyone ask for more?
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