The Upshot: Nashville rocker touches down in multiple turfs, including Neil Young, Elliot Smith, Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., for a fuzzy-bluesy-boogiecentric delight.
BY BARRY ST. VITUS
There’s certainly no shortage of music out there, with approximately 3.6 bands for every adult in the country. Who has the time or attention span to keep current? Trickle down from the music press or raves from friends can sometime cut through the tonnage of releases out there and shoot some clues your way for the Next Big Thing. So, let this be your wake-up call for Nashville music maker Steve Lewis and his vivid and imaginative Creepers & Vines album. There’s a certain comfortable familiarity about his music that gives you the impression that it’s just a new album from a favorite artist of yours, and pulls you in from the first listening. One thing that’s outstanding to his music is its diversity, from gentle, lovely and charming, to raging, ass-thumping, guitar monsters, all done exceedingly well. Few can pull that off as capably as Lewis has done here. The content, styles and tempos mirrors his well-received debut release, Shaky Floors, from 2012, making them good musical bookends. Many reviewers noted musical references like Neil Young & Crazy Horse, glam rock, garage rock and psych in his songs, which grabbed my attention and called for an ear check. I would offer elements of Elliot Smith, Pavement, some Memphis-style blues, to the head-on car-crash noise of the Meatbodies and indie-rock amp-blasts of early Dinosaur Jr.
Witness kick-off tune, and best rocker on the album,“ Off This Rock,” that sucks you in within the first, fuzzy, 20 seconds, with its authoritative guitar intro and sludgy bass, and is arguably one of the best songs of 2015, so far. The next tune, “Seven Little Drops Of Rain,” is a grabber as well, although being a slow and sweet pop chunker that is kind of Kinks-meets-Mikal Cronin. He’s got his blues harp out and mojo working on “Mix It Up,” another tasty rocker. Follow up song “Hard Bargain’ is where a echoey, psych guitar is brought to bear, with blissful effect. Next song “Ohio,” a slow number that was a bit ‘meh’ to me, was the only rather weak tune on the album that I never took to. Call me a disappointed ex-Buckeye, I guess. “Open Your Eyes” is a acoustic number that doesn’t have much more than the title for it’s lyrics, but builds into a trance-y groove, and does secret the album title within. Another favorite here, “Personal Hell,” is a good candidate as a sound-alike segue to play after Cream’s “As You Said,” right up to the guitar mangling and feedback squall of the last couple of minutes. “Baby’s On It” has got a John Lennon vocal treatment oozing from it, not to mention the lyrics, guitar and “Woo-hoos.”
Whiz-bang slide-guitar is featured all over “Big Secret Plan,” jamming it up with an upbeat tempo and a “Be-Bop-A-Lulu”-like refrain chugging along. “Movin’ To France” is a boogie-cum-blues number that’s another rock-solid inclusion on here. On the “Morning After,” I can see where you might hear a little Neil, but it also showcases Lewis’ fine vocal skills in a nice, peaceful, easy, acoustic setting.
All in all, a very impressive and engaging sophomore release that will probably have many buyers searching out Shaky Floors, as possessors of that album will likely be searching out this follow up. It’s music money well spent, and it really beats the latest drop from Wilco, which was free, initially.
DOWNLOAD: “Off This Rock,” “Personal Hell” and “Seven Little Drops Of Rain” (see links, below)