Jeremy Steding barely looks old enought to be out of school but this Florida native relocated to Austin some years ago and this is his third album already. Blessed with a voice that is frequently down in the baritone range, he sounds an awful lot older than his pictures suggest; his style is all his own but is undeniably and solidly country, so that at various moments he sounds like a new Don Williams, or even a new Johnny Cash.
Well, maybe there isn't the whiff of danger that Johnny Cash always had about him, but Jeremy's one cover here is of the great man's Don't Take Your Guns To Town, and he certainly sounds like the right person to be covering this song. Sonorous and reassuringly folksy, he sounds like he was born to sing songs like this.
It only seems natural, therefore, that Jeremy's own songs seem to have qualities in line with that choice. In best honky tonk tradition, drinking looms large with all its attendant difficulties, but so does a wry detachment and plenty of homespun wisdom. The thing that sets Jeremy Steding apart is that he is way more than a honky-tonk singer; there's a folk element to his work, as evidenced by his civil war song, Five Aprils, and the gently beautiful Arkansas Rain. These are easily my favourite songs on the album, being quite tender and intimate, yet the thing is that you feel that all these songs could easily transfer to very large stages. It feels like he covers all the bases to give him huge appeal in the country music world, whilst being quirky and individual enough to feel like a breath of fresh air.
There are a couple of odd moments which pull me up short on each listening: one is that two adjacent songs, seemingly unrelated, all but share the same tune. I've wondered if the two songs are separate episodes from the same story, but it's not clear that that is intended. The other one is when he contrives to rhyme "bearable" with "terrible". Ouch. Those moments apart, there is some serious heft to these songs and the feeling that this is a man who could get very big indeed.
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