With over twenty years of playing and extensive touring behind him, you could hardly call Steve Strongman a blushing newcomer to the music scene. Strongman has been involved in various solid projects throughout the years including the formation of his own rock band, ‘Plasticine’ which had a good run and was immensely popular with the discriminating college set and also as lead guitarist for ‘Kazzer.’ But in finding his way, Steve has now decided to get back to basics and come home to his first true love – the blues. And the recently released Honey only confirms what a superb idea this was.
I was able to hear Steve play live for the first time earlier in the year when he was opening for Mr. Buddy Guy.Not knowing Strongman or his past work, we assumed that we might get to hear some decent blues before Buddy came out and that was all. (Opening for Buddy Guy after all, assumes a certain level of excellence and is not something that appears automatically on one’s blues resume!) When Steve appeared on stage, he was every bit as excited to be there as the audience and still in apparent disbelief that he had landed a gig with The Man himself. His ongoing rapport and asides with the audience were very genuine and felt quite intimate for such a large venue.
But then he started playing and man – can this guy wail!
From the first throbbing blasts of Hard Headed Lover – which reminded me of a slowed down, drunken Jean Genie at times – we were all hooked and frankly, impressed! His skill with the slide guitar is awe inspiring – and the actual range of blues he turned out (which he does flavor with rock at times but never to the point of saturation) was both refreshing and unpredictable.
Strongman has written much of his own material which I respect (nine songs on Honey out of the eleven tracks are his own compositions) and the covers that he does do (Freddie King’s Big Legged Woman for one) he does well.
I especially like the title track Honey with its hard, insistent, chunky shuffle (always a weakness of mine) the swinging and infectious roadhouse piece Let’s Sleep on This and the plaintive sincerity displayed on Soul Searching which isn’t a blues piece at all but still works and has become a favorite car anthem of mine nonetheless. In direct contrast, the weakest track on the cd is Silhouette which seems curiously lost and out of place amongst the other stellar blues tracks. How Blue can you get? on the other hand is top and features renowned blues artist and friend, Mel Brown.
Strongman has received much well deserved, positive attention for Honey and has been nominated for various blues awards in his native Canada. According to his website he is set to release a new acoustic blues record in fall 2008, which I am excited to hear. Check out some sample tracks below and watch this space!
Buy Honey on CD at Amazon.com!