Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Rare indeed when a collection of songs creates an entire world. Yet that’s exactly what transpires with Steppin’ In It’s "Simple Tunes for Troubled Times." Sonically painting with a pleasant array of old time country swing and blues, this Lansing, Michigan, quartet brilliantly updates a resurging American musical genre. Populating this 11-track collection is an aging riverboat, the ghost of Richard Manuel, innocent love, dreams that are dashed, and the struggle of the common man. It’s a world Woody Guthrie knew about, and sang about. Steppin’ In It conveys the wonder of the American spirit, but also its heartache. Led by composer/guitarist Joshua Davis, traditional roots music is celebrated here by plaintive vocals and sweet harmonies, plus musicianship that is positively staggering. The number of instruments manned by Davis, upright bassist Dominic John Suchyta, steel guitarist Joe Wilson and the harmonica-playing Andy Wilson includes trombone, trumpet, Cajun accordion, dobro, slide guitar, Cajun fiddle, clawhammer banjo. Even rarer, though their competence on these instruments is clearly superior, there is little, if any, soloing taking place. All four musicians play to support the essence of the song. A true ensemble, their wonderful arrangements take us on a rich journey through the jaunty "Give My Regards to Miss Moline," the Texas swing of "Hittin’ on All Six," the laid-back "Wren’s Lul-la-by," the true-blue "The Long Haul," and my fave, "Washtenaw County." Though mostly originals, there’s also a rollicking version of Randy Newman’s "Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)." These artists earn my vote for band of the year.
© Fred Kraus, Minor 7th