Unruh, Steve - The Beginning Of A New Day

Year of Release: 1998
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:54:00

Described as progressive folk rock by the artist, here are my initial thoughts on first hearing Steve Unruh's album: I thought of, alternately, Tracy Chapman (acoustic guitar based rock of her first release), John Wesley (acoustic guitar based...), and the late Kevin Gilbert. With that latter, it's the sardonic delivery and cynical perceptions. But, don't mistake that for saying "seems influenced by," because there isn't any sense of that. If anything, this is in the same, though updated, tradition of folk rock singers, and of the singer songwriters like Dylan, Taylor, Fogelberg ... so yes, progressive folk rock.

Where does the progressive come in? The epic title track explores various textures and moods throughout its 26 minutes, making me think of, in a way, the pastoral passages in Genesis' early work. This track sounds one moment Celtic, one moment with a Middle Eastern feel, another moment country (think more bluegrass than Brooks), and another moment modern rock. And yet it all seems to all fit together, without sounding chaotic, frentic, or lost. It is a journey. There are, however, some parts that work better than others.

The production of The Beginning Of A New Day is excellent - clear, crisp, well balanced, which makes the listening experience almost an intimate affair, or as if he's playing in your own living room. What it also gives you is a feeling of familiarity, of comfort. You've been here before and yet this whole experience is new.

Unruh plays all the instruments on this disc, which, besides the usual suspects of guitar, drums, and bass, also includes violin, mandolin, and flute. But, you'd swear there was a whole band there playing. Although the guitar takes center stage for most of the album, the flute takes the lead on the plaintive and appropriately titled "Flute And Rain."

"Reaching For The Sky (The Lawn Chair Song)" is a cynically whimsical track that make me think of Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" - it has that same feel, and briefly the same rhythm.

There's certain melancholy that a slowly, sweetly played violin evokes, of sadness, of something ending - in someways, heart tugging. The first bar of "Lotus' Land" has that feel, carried throughout, as it plays harmony with guitar. If songs have colors, this one would be dark amber - the color of fall in a small town, the late afternoon sun illuminating a barn, just seen through trees with their leaves changing colour. Diverging for a moment ... lotuses are the stuff of legend, Greek legend to be exact - a fruit said to bring on forgetfulness. Well (and bear with me), it seems to me that there is so much that we have forgotten, some of the simple things of life, that in our modern technological age, nature is taking a back seat. This track, whether intending to or not, reminds us of that. Of course, lotus is also a name given to various tropical waterlilies - I don't see waterlilies here.

I found myself wishing, though, that lyrics had been included - fortunately, Unruh sings clearly enough that it won't be hard to pick them up after repeated listenings. And there will be repeated listenings.

Square 1 (4:26) / Bach (1:33) / Returning (10:38) / Nighttime for a While (8:10) / Flute and Rain (1:33) / The Beginning of a New Day (26:20) / Reaching for the Sky (the lawnchair song) (3:48) / Lotus Land (3:26)

Steve Unruh - vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, violin, mandolin, flute, harmonica

Sign Of Saturn - Sign Of Saturn (1996)
Believe? (1997)
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)
The Great Divide (2007)
Songs From The Flowered Chair (2008)
Challenging Gravity (2010)

Genre: Progressive Folk

Origin US

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.steveunruh.com
Hits: 945
Language: english


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