Steve Stern

Steam Powered Stern

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Steve Stern may be an unfamiliar figure on the national folk scene, but he does have a handful of songs to sing and the gumption to put them all down on CD on Steam Powered Stern. The album kicks off with "Walkin' Through the Country," a jaunty song animated by banjo, fiddle, and acoustic guitar, and topped off by Stern's and Lisa Aguilar's vocals. It's the energetic performance here and on songs like "Hollowed Ground" that makes this material sparkle. The mostly acoustic arrangements, while similar across Steam Powered Stern's set list, vary enough from song to song to keep the listener's ears perked up. Steel guitar adorns "Light the Candle," while dobro highlights "I Know How to Love." At around 32 minutes, Steam Powered Stern is short, but this is still enough time to deliver 11 solid songs. Ultimately, the album has a "self-recorded in the basement" feel, meaning that the production lacks professional polish. For the folk-based material, however, this may be a plus, adding an air of authenticity to Stern's back porch vocal style. Indeed, even the title shamelessly recalls a down-to-earth classic, John Hartford's Steam Powered Aereo-Takes. For folk and folk-country fans looking for a batch of good songs performed with vigor, Steam Powered Stern will fit the bill.

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