Year of Release: 2005
Catalog Number: n/a
Total Time: 60:23:00
Song To The Sky is singer/songwriter Steve Unruh's latest release, his eighth under this name, his 11th overall (that includes one with Sign Of Saturn, one with Egeria Jazz Trio, and one with The Dayfly). Song continues in Unruh's progressive folk rock style, including a varied mix of acoustic instruments. Like previous releases, everything's Steve - guitars, drums, violin, flute, bass, tabla, congas, and kalimba. Flute comes to fore in the Latin-styled "Supernova" - think of this piece as a light and airy Santana, complete with tango-istic guitar solos, crisp drumming and percussion, the works (including a tasty, rumbling drum solo at about the halfway mark of this 7-minute plus piece). That he's done everything himself, with top notch production, too (as true about his other releases), lends a very intimate feel to the album. Acoustic textures help, too. Other artists I think bear mention - Dan Fogelberg, Guy Manning and Ian Anderson. And no, the latter isn't because of the flute, though; there is a track that has a Tull like feel to it, the dark folk of "Scratching The Black" in which nary a flute his heard - just voice and plucked and strummed acoustic guitar.
The album, a mix of vocal and instrumental pieces, has as its centerpiece (though they come at the beginning) the epic-length tracks of "1 A.M. On A Tuesday" (10:47) and "Song To The Sky" (22:26), followed by the shorter "Daydream" (3:33). If you appreciated Neal Morse's Testimony, that there was some or all of it that resonated with you, then you will likely appreciate "Set One" of Song To The Sky -- well, all the album really, in terms of sound/music, but the first three pieces in particular thematically. The trio of tracks mentioned above, "...Tuesday," "Song..." and "Daydream," are a bit darker and don't come to a resolution thematically (as Unruh himself admits, as his life isn't over yet). But like Testimony, it deals with the search for something of a spiritual nature from a very personal point of view. Oh, thematically you could also mention U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," though don't try to make any hard and fast correlations. "...Tuesday" was written in a down moment of gloominess, a time everyone (or nearly everyone) experiences at least once. It's that questioning of purpose, of what it's all for and about. That manifests itself in different ways, of course, but this is Unruh's. Unlike Testimony, you needn't worry if you're a bit squeamish about folks professing their love of God. In fact, I'd say that Unruh's approach is less specific (lyrically) ... more like Yes' Jon Anderson.
But this is getting us far a field from a review of the CD itself; however, I don't make this comparison to Morse lightly, because just on a lyricist level... there is something smart and insightful about Unruh's lyrics. And given that he sometimes sounds like the late Kevin Gilbert, another smart and insightful singer/songwriter, you can get an idea of what's on offer here. "...Tuesday" moves through a number of styles - from mellow folk to harder edged (but acoustic), frenetic passages... the shifting moods one has when one has "alone time" and plenty of time to contemplate their life.
"Song..." begins sparsely, with a single acoustic guitar plucked and strummed. The mood is somber but upbeat and lyrically stunning (but I've come to expect that of Unruh). Before long, we get some fiery, energetic playing with guitars, violin, and percussion creating... a rhythm that is partly tango like, partly bluegrass (the bluegrass feel returns in the lively and upbeat "Lotus Victorius" with lots of violin).
And if spiritual matters leave you cold, you might then be drawn to "Scratching The Black," a song about been trapped by and wanting to break free of the impressions others have you. Once you've been "typed," that's what people expect... and what you come to expect of yourself. In "Scratching..." the protagonist/Unruh moves outside of the trap.
As the liner notes give you a very clear idea of what Unruh was thinking when he composed these pieces, I won't delve into this too much more. You see, I'm expecting that you'll have your own copy soon and can read for yourself. :-)
Song To The Sky is a warm and intimate album, full of great textures, great musicianship, and a depth of feeling that comes through every note. Highly recommended.
Set One: 1 A.M. On A Tuesday (10:47) / Song To The Sky (22:26) / Daydream (3:33) / Set Two: Scratching The Black (4:42) / Supernova (7:12) / Distilling The Mystery (2:34) / Lotus Victorius (8:13) / Learn To Love Rain (2:16)
Steve Unruh - guitars, drums, violin, flute, bass, tabla, congas, and kalimba
Sign Of Saturn - Sign Of Saturn (1996)
The Beginning Of A New Day (1998)
Egeria Jazz Trio - Egeria Jazz Trio (2000)
The Dayfly - Album (2000)
DT & BW Records Sampler (2001)
Two Little Awakenings (2001)
Invisible Symphony (2002)
Out Of The Ashes (2004)
Instrumental Retrospective (2004)
Song To The Sky (2005)
Genre: Progressive Folk