REVIEW: Eric Scott Stevens — Burnt Umber (SINGLE)
I was taken with Eric Scott Stevens’ singing from the start. A single line into his new single “Burnt Umber” and I was completely sold on his weathered yet appealing voice. It risks cliché to say it, but Stevens makes you believe. “Burnt Umber” is from the singer/songwriter/musician’s third release entitled the indelible afterimage and if the remaining tracks match the quality heard here, we’re getting an aural taste of one of the new year’s best releases.
I love how Stevens and his fellow musicians build this song. All egos are checked at the door. This is a project where the creative center, Stevens, and everyone working with him to help realize the song are on the same page from the first to last note. The shared vision they have for serving the music first and foremost squashes any attempts to hog the spotlight before they happen. “Burnt Umber” moves from one passage to the next, one line to the next, with a natural inevitability certain to appeal to many listeners.
It’s a great way to bring the album to listener’s attention. The material is certainly more intelligent than your every day fare, but Stevens presents his songwriting with such accessible flair that it will appeal to both casual and hardcore music obsessives alike. He writes and performs in such a way that the songwriting will transition with ease into a live setting. The arrangement lends itself to such adaptation and it doesn’t call for an extended cast to reproduce the studio version for live audiences. It’ll likely take wing in concert.
He’s definitely written a song with potential mass appeal. Even the guitar sound, with a bit of reverb added for effect, doesn’t veer too far outside listener’s expectations but possesses individual flavor. Once you’ve heard Eric Scott Stevens for the first time, you’ll forever be able to identify him. It never seems like an affectation, however. Every decision he makes in the tailoring of this song is geared towards sincerity.
The writing is as clear as a wilderness stream. Listeners can take the track anyway they like, but Stevens uses functional language to convey his message. The same aesthetic governing his musical composition exerts a hold over his lyrics as well; they are focused and shorn of any fat. His phrasing fills those words with extra urgency, but it’s never overheated. Everything is perfectly calibrated for maximum effect.
It isn’t a stretch to expect that the rest of the indelible afterimage measures up to the same high standards set here. “Burnt Umber” is a deeply musical and substantive listening experience. It sounds like Stevens entered the studio with a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve with this track and his collaborators were sympathetic to his vision. It has an assertive yet appealing sound and never attempts biting off any more than it can chew. He’s opening his year on quite a high note with this single and it’s not hard to imagine things will only get better from here.