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California musician, singer-songwriter Steven Graves is one of those artists who has been able to tap into classic soul and the singer-songwriter age of the late 1960s and 1970s and the seamless harmonies to go with both and simultaneously place his own twist. His latest album How Long is an honest to goodness soul, pop, singer-songwriter fare worth time getting aquatinted with. He has a cracking band in support (guitars, drums, pedal steel, piano, organ, keyboards and harmony vocals), and it’s due to their sympathic support the songs are elevated to another level.
Graves opens with title-track How Long, a restless piece featuring pop, soul and rock. The kind of song Randy Weeks has made his trademark (he spent some of his most successful years on America’s west coast down in Southern California). The twangy rhythmic beat and sunny feel is of an infectious variety. It is quickly followed by the finely worked up Good Day (wonderful 1970s harmonies) and, the jangling rhythm fuelled Forces Of Love. Let It Reign with fine piano accompaniment provides a mellow feel as the time for reflection is visited, and apart from it having a familiar feel to it it’s a genuine 5-star piece of work. With a heartfelt message asking for peace, and, of how the train is in the station and we are all one! Its soul steeped harmonies, electric lead guitar and piano underpin Graves’ strong lead vocals. Killer ballad would be an apt description. Moving on through the tracks, People Rise has an enjoyable classic reggae feel.
Captain Soul underlines how Graves has an excellent head for a lyric to go with his uncanny ability of carving out an infectious rhythm. It is the kind of song legendary figured The Band would have enjoyed playing, and loved to have said also written. It could well have been the title track! No reason why not. In nFool For You Graves love of San Francisco is noted. Now there’s a micro climate if ever there was. In the song (with pedal steel, female vocals) he speaks of how the fog rolls in at night and more. In it he has a match clincher.
Weary Man with its big funky sound it is followed by a smouldering soul drenched version of the epic and arguable overlong ramble jam like Sugaree. Set Me Free with noteworthy piano and a bustling rythmn is typical Graves. Graves at his best as much energy is conjured. Going back to his admiration of 1970s singer-songwriters he closes up shop with two excellent songs of the ilk.
Stand For The People and Fly To The Stars are ha did the task of finishing in style and they do just that. The first has a busy funky soul feel and is something of a rallying call. It comes complete with blues and, is typical California sound of the era. In has a stronger cutting edge than most songs of the period. More along the lines of vintage Neil Young. Powerful. Plus it has an upbeat feel that raises dust! Not least due to some tasty pedal steel guitar work.
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