Unruh, Steve - The Beginning Of A New Day

Year of Release: 1998
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:34:00

I first heard material from Steve Unruh a little while ago, having been pointed at a link on his website to download a sample from one of his solo albums, The Beginning Of A New Day (1998). Having held onto this tempting little mp3 for a while, I finally got around to ordering the disc ? and boy am I glad I did. Wish I'd done it sooner really. I don't hear many albums that I love instantly, nor ones that I don't seem to get tired of no matter how often I play (and trust me, when an album goes on for review, it gets played a lot). This is a really quality disc and it marks Unruh as a hugely important artist in the prog rock pool, particularly considering his work is all-independent.

The playing here is all acoustic, and all credited to Unruh. The list of instruments he uses includes those you'd expect (vocals, guitar, bass, drums/percussion) as well as several you may not (violin, mandolin, flute and harmonica), indicating a wide and interesting range of musical talents to his name. And yes, this is folksy rock, crossing a number of different varieties of folk. At times it's even almost country, the harmonica and fiddle-style violin mixing with the acoustic guitars to make things intermittently bluegrass. Oh, I can almost hear you all cringing at the mention of the word "country," but trust me, it's not a bad thing, and it's only a passing resemblance at best ? after all, what country album would you find that includes a 26 minute epic discussing philosophy?

For that is what we have here. The lyrics throughout are intelligent, probing, often cynical, sometimes bitter; the central theme to this album is the exploration of a lifelong personal pursuit of philosophy and truth, and the pains and joys which occur therein. This fits beautifully with the clever composition of the music. Unruh uses all instruments to their greatest effect, and utilises recurring musical passages and themes to tie the album into a whole. The production is flawless and the mix perfect, the playing is unpretentious and absorbing. This is prog rock in the true sense of the genre, where one discovers new things in the music and lyrics each time one listens. In comparing this work to other albums, those that instantly spring to mind are the solo discs from Spock's Beard members Nick D'Virgillio (drums) and Neal Morse (ex-frontman). Unruh has that same atmosphere of clever word-play combined with heartfelt acoustic rock, music which is truly stimulating to the mind and soul.

Though I'd still have to count the gritty "Square 1" as my favourite (that's the song I sampled originally) it's being challenged by "Nighttime For A While." This song, to me, traces a path through the unnamed narrator's ordinary day, which becomes plagued by wild swings of mood ? lethargy to panic to bitterness to depression to calm and around again ? and it is here that we can hear the true effectiveness of Unruh's songwriting. The disparate emotions are displayed in the music so simply and yet so well. In reviewing this album, one also cannot get past mentioning the title track, which is the aforementioned epic, a journey of self-discovery. The lyrics here are just so cunningly crafted; poets take note. This is one for you.

Though I've a lot more to say on The Beginning Of A New Day, it's hard to convey all my impressions completely ? it's best you hear it for yourself. As I've said, there are mp3 sample available on his website as well as his full discography to order (including several band works as well as his solo albums), so check it out. I've got to get hold of the rest of his catalog, myself ? looking forward to it very much, particularly Beginning's two sibling albums, Two Little Awakenings and Believe? ? but this is an excellent album to start with, one that has been around for a few years and one I very heartily recommend.

Similar to: Neal Morse, NDV

[This review originally appeared March 2004 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

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: January 1st 2005
Reviewer: Karyn Hamilton
Artist website: www.steveunruh.com
Hits: 963
Language: english


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