You can’t teach swagger in a musician. They either have it or they don’t. Stephen Wrench’s new single “Plow” has the sort of swagger born from a childhood steeped in hearing arguably the greatest popular music of the last century and more when those releases are new. It springs from feeling that music seep into your bloodstream and driving you to seek out past masters who inspired your youthful heroes. It comes from a fire within to be seen, heard, and make your presence felt with a guitar across your shoulder and a song on your lips. You hear all this and more during “Plow”.
I love its jagged electric guitar sound. It isn’t pilling off anything complicated, Wrench’s music isn’t about mindless guitar gymnastics. Instead, this is playing that looks to draw blood. It wants to provoke a response. It kicks into a higher gear when the full instrumentation takes over and I feel the song dragging me along with it; your mileage may vary. It has a straightforward beat and the acoustic guitar coming in soon after the intro is a shrewd move that brings a lot to the song.
The lyrics are from the “I’m happy wherever my woman is” school of songwriting. It’s a subject any longtime music fan will recognize. I’m a big fan of how Wrench orchestrates, for lack of a better word, the song’s dynamics. Some songwriters/musicians may have led off with acoustic guitar and incorporated its electric counterpart later. Wrench adopts a different approach, however, with the electric riffing beginning “Plow” before we hear the first acoustic strum.
The song builds an impressive head of steam despite its relatively short running time. Wrench saves salvos of lead guitar for the track’s end and they place a bluesy exclamation point on “Plow”. Attentive listeners will hear the bevy of influences from Wrench. His debt to Southern rock, especially acts such as Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others. I can hear the recently deceased Leslie West, legendary guitarist for Mountain, belting out its words and exploding the song’s potential for memorable guitar heroics.
It isn’t the last we’ll hear from Wrench. He has many irons in the fire these days, without question, but songwriting is as much a part of his life as his skin and he won’t be shedding either anytime soon. He’ll always write songs and make music that resists putting on airs. “Plow” never pretends to be anything it isn’t — straight no chaser rock music that hits listeners where they live and invites multiple listens. Good rock songs aren’t throwaway numbers. Listening to them two, three, four times and more often carries the same charge you feel the first time.
If you’re discovering Stephen Wrench for the first time with this release and love rock music, you’re in for a treat. If you know about Wrench and his contributions to our musical life, “Plow” will reaffirm for you that he’s one of the under the radar talents woven into the music world’s tapestry.