With a vocal personality that joins the grit of Jay Farrar with the introspective presence of Paul Simon, Ian Steinberg releases Guidance, his first full-length recording, and the Americana-friendly follow-up to his Folk Songs EP from 2016.
Ian Steinberg has a voice that rings with the collective legacy of American music - from the gospel inflection of One Foot One Knee to the clear folk influence of tracks like Here Nor There and Guidance, Steinberg corrals these countrified currents of modern music into the safe-space of his New Englandish heart. Faced with the navigation of loss, love, and family, we approach the vulnerability that we need to make sense of it all, along with a healthy dose of cynicism.
Tired of nostalgia, tired of future fears. Tired of remembering. Won’t ever be clear
Sometimes, the most important things remain unsaid: maybe it was a lack of timing, or maybe it was the deliberate choice to leave a question in the air.
Let’s talk about the weather, laugh with those good tears
Appreciation, and a presence to the moment at hand, are the calling cards of Ian Steinberg’s lyrical style. With the open love-letter of Honey Won’t You Come Back Home, we get a feel for the obvious connection that once was, and a sense that we can only see what is important when it is gone.
I wish I could forget that note, the empty drawers and the cool wind blowing through that swinging door
Here Nor There sets a wistful and self-exploratory tone, with a vibrant acoustic guitar that couples naturally with a roots rhythm-section, recalling a classic like Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne. With Steinberg’s present-moment sense of clarity, we see a simple connection between insecurity and the tyranny of passive existence.
One Foot One Knee takes a meditative turn, combining a gospel style of vocal harmony with the acoustic root-drone gravitas of a blues confessional. This endearing and hopeful song feels like a missive to the near future, and the invocation of a renewed sense of spiritual purpose. The single-take on acoustic guitar lies in rich contrast to the layers of washy hymnody, and the koan-like sparsity of the verse language creates a sense of mystery and suspense.
One foot in front of the other until I get home
At its essence, One Foot One Knee represents an unshakeable belief in the value of exploration, and makes the point that a life is less about the destination, and more about the journey.
With his release Guidance, Ian Steinberg centers around the main theme of mental health. “The crux of Guidance is my descent into and rise out of depression, along with all of the aspects and events of life that have influenced my outlook,” says Steinberg. Despite the raw and thorny subject-matter, the album retains a certain lightness and is informed by that widened sense of perspective. This worthy debut from Ian Steinberg is an intimate example of music as a vehicle for personal catharsis.
Ian Steinberg is supported by Dahne Duffy on electric guitar, Lucas Tabshey on bass, and Bear Borges on drums. You can find Ian performing around Burlington, Vermont as well as the Northeastern United States. Guidance will be available for pre-order from the website starting May 1.