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Steve Mayone - Sideways Rain

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 12 / 8 / 2017

Steve Mayone - Sideways Rain
Label: Janglewood Records
Format: CD


Fifth album from Brooklyn-based Steve Mayone finds the singer/songwriter addressing sensitive subjects that at times are at odds with his always gorgeous melodies

Brooklyn-based Steve Mayone must be tired by now of forever seeing the names of George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys in his reviews; although that’s some talent to be compared to it must get tiring after a while. While there’s undoubtedly a touch of Harrison’s work scattered throughout this latest collection of songs even Harrison couldn’t keep up with Mayone’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of catchy melodies. Even when Mayone switches influences from a former Beatle to Dylan, who has surely influenced this multi-instrumentalist equally, as on ‘What Good’, Mayone injects his own vision into the song to make his work more than just a tribute to those he so obviously admires. These songs were written during a particularly difficult period in Mayone’s life. The album is dedicated to his mother and brother; Mayone lost both within a few short years but it also shows hope. The song, ‘So Many People Get It Wrong’, was written about the worries around raising his first born and like many of the songs on ‘Sideways Rain’ the concerns or distress that inform his lyrics are belied by the warm, gorgeous melodies that Mayone wraps his lyrics in. There’s little point in denying that ‘So Many People Get It Wrong’ doesn’t sound like it could have been pulled off a George Harrison album but that’s hardly a bad thing. Mayone has captured perfectly the worries of a first-time father and set them to one of those once heard never forgotten melodies; it’s a perfect example of Mayone’s talent. The song leads into the aforementioned ‘What Good’, which complete with violin from Clare Burson and with Mayone adapting something of an unexpected Dylan rasp wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ‘Desire’. Maybe it’s the title song where we first meet Mayone though. The song was born out of Mayone driving through the Rockies in Colorado during a hurricane. His vocals here are pure Mayone, which results in one of his most emotive vocal performances on the album. The sections where Mayone is joined vocally by Anita Suhanin are particularly effective. Complete with Chris McGandy’s pedal steel and Russell Chudnofsky’s slide guitar this country-infused piece is one of the most heartfelt and moving on the album. The opening song, ‘Letting You Go’ is one of the songs that deals with loss but the melody and the message in the lyrics set this apart from what we’ve come to expect from songs dealing with this subject. The song opens with a short string section played and arranged by Ryan Drickey; just fifteen seconds of musical magic that’s impossible to ignore or not to love before the band and Mayone make a positive statement about moving on. Those strings make another all-too-short statement at the end of the song; it’s the perfect ending to the perfect opening song. ‘The Long Way Home’ sounds like a classy bar-room band playing the blues. The song is cut from a completely different cloth than what has gone before and, despite it showing that Mayone and his band are no one trick ponies, it does disrupt the flow of the album somewhat, depending on your mood… ‘Time Moves On’ features just Mayone on acoustic guitar with Jason Mercer playing upright bass and shaker and is one of the most affecting songs on the album even given the sparse backing. Mayone’s vocals are so warm and inviting you could heat a house from the glow and the gentle melody is perfectly suited to Mayone’s lyrics. It starts with the lines (“Trying to earn a living with your hands/But nobody’s hiring an honest man/The jobs have been shipped to foreign lands/The world moves on”) before taking in a love lost, the disappointment in parents losing faith despite you doing your best (“No one sees your darkness/Hidden in plain sight”), to growing old (“The old punks have all settled down/No one wants to go out on a Friday night”) to the realisation that time does indeed “move on without you.” There’s another slight Dylan feel about the bluesy ‘Pretty Mama’, the horns adding extra texture behind Mayone’s laid-back vocals. It’s yet another unexpected diversion but one that works so well within the album. The folk-flavoured ‘Early Morning Train’ is a letter from a dying train driver as his life ebbs away on the banks of the Hudson River to his family and friends after “coming around the bend a little too fast.” The final two songs both deal with losing loved ones. Mayone may well be addressing a ‘Strange Bird’ on the penultimate song, a beautiful acoustic ballad but given the dedications on the album one can’t help but wonder with lines like “too weird to live too rare to die, two little wings too tired to fly” and “strange bird fly away, this world was never meant for you anyway” we’re left with our own conclusions to make. There is no question about the closing song though; another beautifully constructed ballad with Lyle Brewer’s electric guitar just as emotive as Mayone’s voice - “Why’d you call me at 3 a.m./We’ve never been the closest of friends” and “Now why’d you wanna throw it all away/Turn off the light on this beautiful day.” Mayone and Anita Suhanin plead at the close of the song “on this beautiful day why’d ya go and throw it all away,” before a final short guitar lick from Brewer is heartbreaking. It’s a mark of his talent that Mayone can take such sensitive subjects yet dress them in appealing melodies so the end result has an uplifting effect rather than the opposite. There’s little not to like on ‘Sideways Rain’ but plenty to love.

Track Listing:-
1 Letting You Go
2 So Many People Get It Wrong
3 What Good
4 Sideways Rain
5 The Long Way Home
6 Rescue Me
7 Time Moves On
8 New Years Resolution
9 It's Beautiful
10 Pretty Mama
11 Early Morning Train
12 Strange Bird
13 Save You

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Unfortunate Son (2006)
Exceptional second album from eclectic singer-songwriter Steve Mayone, which incorporates elements of rock, pop and country
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