All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Steve Erwin - Was It Like This

Steve Erwin - Was It Like This
2006/2008, Steve Erwin

Washington D.C.-area singer/songwriter Steve Erwin exacts a quiet influence on those around him.  With an operatic voice and a detailed-oriented style of song craft, Erwin has made himself a staple of The Beltway’s music scene.  Back in 2006, Erwin released Was It Like This, a debut album that was re-released in 2008 with bonus tracks.  Erwin’s songwriting and voice are certain to capture your attention, and the guitar work of no less than Danny Gatton in support helps to push a good-bordering-on-great album over the edge.

Was It Like This opens with “Sweet Boy”; a solid story-teller song built in a ménage of blues, country and roots rock.  Erwin fills the song with inflection and energy with a voice that makes you want to keep listening.  “Oh, Howard” blends murder, intrigue and the depths of alcoholism into a story about a mentor gone on the lam; an entertaining turn that truly displays Erwin’s talent for detail-oriented song craft.  “In Fall” is a work of art.  Erwin’s quiet song of remembrance is enhanced by Gatton, who fills and frolics in subtly magical measure.  “Walkin’ This Road” is great bluesy-folk with a gospel tinge and R&B backbeat; an entertaining tune with a ‘one-day-at-a-time’ theme that’s highly entertaining. 

“Uncomplicated Love” is a classic Christmas-themed ballad that’s lovelorn and weary yet hopeful all at once.  Erwin bemoans his search for a love that’s built on the basics.  The songwriting here is so classic in style you’ll swear it must be a cover.   “Born A Tourist” is a nine minute blues/rock guitar clinic in the form of a song.  Starting in slow dynamic turns, Erwin and Gatton take listeners to frenetic heights before setting you gently back on earth again.  Particularly if you yourself play guitar, this song on its own makes the album worth checking out.  “Adult Love” explores the twists and turns love sometimes takes before it ends up settling where it belongs.  The theme and lyrics here are solid, but for once Erwin oversteps his bounds in a song that seems musically interminable with its woeful/whiney feel. 

“In The Mix” is a solid, jazz-infused number that shows off the live energy of Erwin and his band while retaining some of the fine tuning that a studio recording provides.  “I Will Sleep” has some real pizzazz, but the melody line veers out of Erwin’s comfortable range and suffers for the fact.  Erwin closes with a stylish live cover of George Gershwin and DuBose Howard’s “Summertime” (Porgy & Bess), hamming up the vocal a bit, presumably to try and sound in character.  It’s a solid performance, but sounds ill-conceived in light of the grand history of the song.  “Summertime” is one of those tunes that have become so iconic that anything less than a stellar performance pales in comparison to the great performances offered up by artists throughout its history.

Steve Erwin does a lot of things right on Was It Like This.  His voice, within his comfortable range, is very much worth spending some time with.  Erwin also has distinctive skill as a songwriter and story teller, showing an attention to detail in his lyrics that is rare and even harder to make work well within the structure of a song.  The addition of Danny Gatton’s guitar work is a boon as well.  Gatton dashes and dances between Erwin’s melody lines with a flair that’s legendary, illuminating the songs with rhythms, sounds and fills that turn great songwriting into works of art.  There are a few wrong turns on this trip, but even they serve to make Was It Like This a bit more memorable. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

 Learn more about Steve Erwin at It Like This is available digitally from and iTunes.  Amazon also offers a copy of the album on CD; it is the original 2005 release and does not contain the bonus tracks on this version.

No comments: