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Americana East Nashville singer-songwriter, Stephen Simmons’ seventh studio album Hearsay like with all other records by him sent my way, it is addictive listening. Awash in everyday moods, expressions and the struggles of people in both rural and urban environments Tennessee-born and raised, Simmons has an uncanny ability of crafting neat grooves songs that pull on one’s heartstring with incredible ease.
Simmons’ music like that of John Fullbright and Justin Townes Earle bounces of the wall and pulsates to give off a freshness few acts today manage to achieve. To do it with such regularity underlines Simmons' incredible talent to set a benchmark for all aspiring acts and himself too. His vocals and acoustic guitar is aided by ace pickers Eric Fritsch (electric guitar, bass), Alex McCollough (pedal steel), Dave Coleman (electric, two-tone guitar), Jen Gunderman (B-3, piano, harmony vocals), Marty Lynds (drums, percussion) and Tim Marks (bass) as he reels off such gems as “I Ain’t Lonely (I’m Just Lonesome)” and beautifully melodic piece “Gold & Silver”. While the first contains hints of Steve Earle, the latter owes more, given a little imagination Don Williams; to whom Simmons notes ‘playing around for fun late at night in the studio with my musician friends led to a semi regular thing we liked to call Don Williams / Irish Whiskey night’. Of a even more rural theme you have “Horse Cave, Kentucky” to go with his I'm a jerk song “Stardust”, mysterious ditty “Santa Cruz Ridge” and with piano leading the way “Hard It Goes” as the above noted Fullbright comes to mind. This as Simmons powers through alongside steel guitar, and speaks of how he’ll be the drunk at the party where he is unknown as he struggles to get over his girl removing herself from his life.
Also of note you have telling ballad, “Emily’s Eyes” as he looks deeply into her eyes, and with a chugging rhythm accompanying him “I’ll Be Your Johnny Cash” with its 1960s edge as country and hints of rockabilly merge to go with arguably his best song. I’m talking about dreamy ode “The Boobie Bungalow Gentleman’s Club”. One of many where Simmons’ lyrics paint vivid and lasting imagery. Stronger than most, other than from those noted earlier in my review. While Hearsay may not be Simmons' most dynamic or full-sounding album but, good enough to earn a place near my player.
Footnote; Short UK tour end of October, plus one date in Ireland.
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