Man on the Roof

Stephen Fretwell

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Man on the Roof Review

by Katherine Fulton

Stephen Fretwell's 2007 album Man on the Roof sees the English singer/songwriter combining the earthy delivery of a Devils & Dust-era Bruce Springsteen with the gentle warmth, intimacy, and haunting nature of Jeff Buckley. It seems an impossible combination -- or at least an improbable one -- and hearing Fretwell pull it off with casual ease is enough to give any music fan pause. While still in his 20s during the writing and recording of this album, there is a weariness in Fretwell's voice on Man on the Roof that makes him sound older and wiser than his years, something that is both surprising and endearing. His music possesses a yearning, searching quality here, but it seems that Fretwell is less concerned than his musical contemporaries about finding his place in the world. Instead, he seems to be more dedicated to experiencing and enjoying life's journey; he possesses a sense of contentment that separates him from more restless singer/songwriters. The Fretwell captured on Man on the Roof is a hopeful dreamer, not a wistful one. There is one notable exception to Fretwell's happy seeker persona here: the ethereal, borderline transcendence of "The Scheme." One of the most austere tracks on the album (along with the gritty "Saturday"), "The Scheme" is dominated by a powerful, soulful agony that is at once wrenching and intoxicating. It is here that Fretwell most closely resembles Buckley, nearly reaching the same musical heights and revealing just how well he has perfected his craft. Even in songs that deal with heartache and fading love, Fretwell still reaches for a light in the darkness -- or barring that, makes his own.

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