Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to shine our gaze onto Owen Stevenson, a singer songwriter who has been lauded as one of the Chicago area’s premier performers. He’s taken the stage at legendary venues like the Cubby Bear and the Hard Rock Cafe, and his previous releases have been met with notable fervor. His latest endeavor, which is due out June 24, is entitled ‘Right Here, Right Now.’ I’ve gotten early access to it, so let’s delve right in. Does it hold up against the bar Stevenson has set for himself?
Now, I’m inclined immediately to like Stevenson. My studio is based here in Chicago, and I love it when a local performer comes across my desk for the Spotlight. Putting my local bias aside, though, his music is rather lovely and enjoyable. It’s essentially singer songwriter music with a pop rock flair. This results in friendly, consistently catchy efforts - something I’m certainly not opposed to as long as the quality is equally consistent.
‘Come To You’ opens up ‘Right Here Right Now’ with a bold statement. Stevenson’s band is sharp, his songwriting is equally solid, and above all, his production is great. I’ve said it many, many times, but it always bears repeating: I get so much awfully produced music. Everything in Stevenson’s mix works, and that’s so refreshing.
One of the problems with writing as a “singer songwriter” is falling into a predictable, trope-filled rut. In truth, the label has become a bit of a stereotype for critics like myself who get inundated with acoustic, pseudo-insightful jaunts through love and tragedy. Stevenson avoids these tropes pretty well by evolving his sound from track to track in a noticeable fashion.
Case in point: ‘Another Day Another Dollar’ evolves from the album’s opening by introducing an uber-soulful soundscape which Stevenson occupies well. ‘Love Is The Best Thing We Can Do’ then incorporates brass sections into that soul with one of the best written tracks on the album. The record doesn’t reside only in that soulful style, however, as Stevenson moves on to some Eagles-style pop rock on ‘Right Here And Now.’
‘Over You’ is an interesting ballad of sorts, because it’s essentially a mostly-positive break-up track. Stevenson muses about his failed relationship and its lack of merit, but also acknowledges that its failure is the catalyst for his life moving forward better than before. It’s a nice change of pace from your stereotypical break-up track.
Now, ‘Right Here And Now’ is a long record, so let’s dig right into the latter half’s most important sections. ‘Save Me’ offers up Stevenson’s best lyrical effort on the record, and it’s matched perfectly with a heavily bluesy electric guitar. ‘Place Called Love’ infuses Stevenson’s musical personality with an Americana-style delivery, something that fits him splendidly.
The finale, ‘Morning Sun,’ is a great track to end an album of emotional turmoil - it’s forward-looking, it’s positive, and it’s a statement of overcoming the obstacles Stevenson hurdles through on the album.
‘Right Here And Now’ is an album worth keeping tabs on when it drops later this month. Owen Stevenson’s nailed his culmination of indie rock and roll that’s injected with soul, blues, and pop.