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Little Steven - 'Soulfire' Album Review


1. Soulfire

2. I'm Coming Back

3. Blues Is My Business

4. I Saw the Light

5. Some Things Just Don't Change

6. Love On The Wrong Side Of Town

7. The City Weeps Tonight

8. Down And Out In New York City

9. Standing In The Line Of Fire

10. Saint Valentine's Day

11. I Don't Want to Go Home

12. Ride The Night Away

So you think you're a cool motherfucker do you? You might be but you're not Little Steven cool.

Little Steven has a resume that most people would sell their soul for. He played Silvio Dante in the hit HBO The Sopranos as well as the lead role in Lillyhammer where he plays a former mob hitman who's gone into hiding in Norway. He hosts Little Steven's Underground Garage, a show and radio station that's syndicated globally. He's a well known political activist, songwriter and producer. He's probably best known across the planet for being a musical foil to some guy called Bruce Springsteen, heading up the legendary E Street Band for most of the past forty years.

He's also managed to release a brace of solo albums, culminating in this year's "Soulfire", which act's as a great showcase for his love of garage rock, soul and rhythm and blues.

A lot of the songs on the album sound like they could have been a part of his boss's career (see what I did there?) which isn't surprising when you find out how involved he is with the writing and arranging of Springsteen's body of work.

The album lays it's cards out with album opener and title track 'Soulfire', peeling off a funky guitar riff over a four to the floor kick drum part whilst singing "stop the world for a minute, is that a tear I see in your eye? This is your chance this is your moment baby, spread your wings is time to fly". It's not rocket science and it won't bring about world peace. But it's solid, cool as song and album. You can imagine the gypsy scarf wearing Steve Van Zandt killing it with a tight live band on some club stage.

'I'm Coming Back' sounds like it could have slipped comfortably into any Springsteen album. It's steady paced with a good big band backing, ask horns, keys and gospel backing singers. With a nod to another famous Steve, 'Blues Is My Business' opens with a guitar solo that sounds like it could have come directly from the late Texas blues guru Stevie Ray Vaughan. He nails the tone and fluidity with ease. You forget how excellent a guitar player he can be.

'I Saw The Light' is a cowbell led nod to his day job whilst 'Somethings Don't Change' carries a strong Motown flavour. The horn section features quite prominently across the album, and why not? If you've got the players, use them.

'The City Sleeps Tonight' sounds like a 60's doo-wop ballad whilst congas and a wah-wah guitar shuffle in the 70's cop show funk feel of 'Down And Out In New York City', a long instrumental opening setting the mood before Mr Van Zandt steps up the microphone. He may not be the greatest singer in the world but he's authentic and sings from the heart. This is a world he's lived in as Little Steven and the songs benefit from that.

'Standing In The Line Of Fire' rides in, fresh from a spaghetti western, dust dropping from it's twanging guitars. 'Saint Valentine's Day' has him sounding a little like Mark Knopfler on the vocals.

Closing up the album in fine form are tracks 'I Don't Wanna Go Home' and 'Ride The Night Away', a pair of upbeat little numbers that are worth hanging around for.

The album is solid and workman like. It's not going to reinvent the wheel or set the charts on fire but that's not the point. It's about someone playing the songs they want to and having fun doing so. And that's alright for Little Steven then it's alright by me.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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