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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Scott Beardsley, a homegrown Americana singer songwriter from a small town in Missouri. The musician has spent a good deal of his life in the US Army, and he’s lived in North Carolina and Alaska as well. His songs, however, are often centralized around characters and themes from his upbringing in the tiny town of Doniphan. His latest album, ‘Path With No End,’ explores some of those stories.
I’ve said it on the Independent Spotlight before, but it bears repeating: there are a lot of indie folkies and singer songwriters. Perhaps with the exception of hip hop, it’s the most inundated genre in the community. That doesn’t mean, however, that an authentic and talented artist can’t be heard through the noise. In a very unique way, I’d argue Beardsley does that.
‘Poor People Have Poor Ways’ opens up ‘Path With No End,’ and it’s a sound that’s injected with a healthy amount of Hank Williams, Bruce Springsteen, and even Johnny Cash, I’d argue. It’s a song about the working man’s struggle: a classic theme in early Americana music. ‘Poor People Have Poor Ways’ is simple in every sense; it’s just Beardsley and his guitar. The magic, however, lies in his sharp lyricism about the everyday life of America’s proletariat. “Money don’t mean a thing at the end of the day,” he croons in the final notes of each hook.
Another song that embraces a unique level of brevity is ‘Numb from the Whiskey.’ Beardsley’s emotional songwriting and vocal delivery shines here, and it’s another classic Americana theme: lost love drowning in a bottle of whiskey. The title track follows, and it’s an elegantly written tune. It does, however, present the album’s foremost issue.
These songs are truly well written and performed, but Beardsley’s production is all over the place. The early tracks on this album have very flat mixes. They sound like they were recorded on a room mic and never EQ’d or mastered. The title track, ‘Path With No End,’ has very overbearing lead vocals, and again, the mix is very flat. All six of the songs also have very quiet mixes, and had to push all my equipment to nearly max levels to hear them.
Having listened to this album in a studio on studio equipment, I found myself itching to have access to the root files of the record to mix and master them. Beardsley should hand this off to someone to do that; some tinkering could take this album to the next level. ‘That Rocky Shore,’ a lovely little ballad, suffers from the same very hot vocals that the titular song does.
‘Sunshine’ is a particularly good tune. It has an inspirational vibe to it, but for all the sunshine it basks in, it feels genuine and infectious. It isn’t tropey at all. ‘Praying For Me,’ though, may be the best track of the half dozen. It’s such a beautiful tribute to one’s mother, and the production is a bit better, even if the vocal mix is still aggressive.
These are really splendid songs. Scott Beardsley has a great sound, and he’s writing some terrific songs. They have production issues, but that’s something that could be solved with a decent engineer. That’s just cosmetic. The root of the art - the music and lyrics - is quite good.