Saturday, 21 January 2012
Griff says; Stephen Harrison - true yesterday, true today, true tomorrow
Those of you with very good memories may recall that I first wrote about Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter Stephen Harrison (pictured) way back in November 2010 (see 'here' if you need to catch up on the biographical details). At that time I was so enamoured of his song 'The Colour of Black is Black' that it went on to feature in our 2010 Streetlamp Festive Thirty. What really attracted me to Stephen's music was undoubtedly the timbre of his voice; pitched somewhere between Richard Hawley and David Bowie (not a bad place to be) it has a rich but weary quality that provides an authentic tang of melancholia to his lyrics. Stephen's musical history stretches back to the punk days of yore and it would be fair to say that, despite shifting somewhat across the guitar-based rock spectrum over the years, his music has remained fixed within that milieu. That is why I was surprised recently when Stephen got in touch to announce the release of his latest recording, 'Today Tomorrow' and provided the additional information that he had eschewed the electric guitar to record a 10-song album of acoustic-based, contemporary folk songs.
Having now had a week or so to fully acquaint myself with his new style I can genuinely report that the change has proved to be an unqualified success. Those of you who read these 'Griff says' pieces to keep up-to-date with the best in broken-hearted, reflective, confidential song-writing performed in a spare, intimate and unembelished acoustic style are going to lap this up. Here are Stephen's own videos of two of my favourite songs from the album to whet your appetite. First up is the magnificent and moody 'Sphinx City', which, with its sombre lyric, wistful minor key and unexpected chord changes gives it an air of a French chanson or even (praise of praise) a lost Leonard Cohen classic;
Next up is the equally dignified and accomplished 'And If';
I hope you enjoyed those. There are eight more tracks on the album and I suggest that you take your time to sit down, turn out the lights, and really listen to it from start to finish to get the best from the hushed and almost private nature of the songs.
As usual, Stephen is making the CD available from his own Close Up Records site. The album can be downloaded for free in digital form from his bandcamp site and from his last.fm page. The latter also has much of his earlier work available if this latest album piques your interest. Stephen also has his own fine little website 'here', which is well worth a look.