On the eight original songs out of ten on his second album Broke Down Beautiful, Steve Krause explores various stages and circumstances in romantic relationships between couples, from happy love all the way to loneliness and death. Given that range, it is perhaps appropriate that he starts on the downside and works backward for a while, as the opening song, "We Both Know" describes a love gone cold in a relationship that will end soon. The word "end" appears repeatedly in the next song, "If I Were a Book," as well, though it's not clear that this time the couple will end by parting or by coming to a loving understanding. The album's most positive song (and, according to the artist's press materials, its most autobiographical one) is "Only Always," in which the singer meets a woman on an airplane trip and marries her. Then "Halls of Your Heart" seems to fantasize about what would have happened if he hadn't taken that trip, or maybe how he felt before he did, i.e., lonely. Happily, however, he is now able to sing "Lullabye for Zoe" to his daughter (though press materials reveal that the song actually refers to the child of a departed friend). "Wherever You Are" is a declaration of undying devotion, while "Gone on You" is sung by a lover whose loved one has left him. Such songs are straightforward to the point of simplicity, but elsewhere, Krause gets more complicated. His best idea is found in "You're Gonna Find Someone," in which the twist is that the singer has dumped his girlfriend and now regrets doing so. Less effective are songs apparently written as fictional speculation: "Sleep of the Dead" is sung in the voice of the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman who was the subject of a political battle some years back; and "Hearts in the Graveyard" is about spousal abuse. Neither reveals much insight into their subjects. Krause uses a couple of cover tunes to change the pace, once to good effect, and once not. It's amazing that he got his producer, Ben Wisch, who produced the original recording of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis," to work on his pallid version, which strips the song of melody and passion. On the other hand, stripping the rock elements from Dramarama's "Anything, Anything" reveals a bitterly conflicted romantic lyric that is actually more interesting than any of Krause's own words. Both cover songs make excellent use of telling details, while the songwriter singing them here remains metaphor-happy and overly general in his own compositions. He is an appealing singer, and Wisch has provided him with engaging folk-pop arrangements. But he could dig deeper into his subjects than he has on this album.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann