Steve Strongman Releases A Natural Fact at the Starlight
by: Craig Dubecki
“I’ve always felt that blues, rock’n’roll and country are just about a beat apart.”
- Waylon Jennings
Man, that was one hell of a great party at the Starlight in Waterloo on May 4! After much anticipation, as demonstrated by the long line of people standing outside waiting to get in, Steve Strongman from Hamilton released his latest masterpiece, A Natural Fact.
The last time I saw this winner of the 2011 Maples Blues Award for Guitarist of the Year (the top blues award in Canada), was at the 2011 K-W Blues Festival. At that time he and his band rocked out with his electric for a stellar blues show. At the Starlight, however, he chose to focus on a few select acoustic guitars, which made the experience of watching him play even more spell-binding.
Steve is a truly gracious performer; he acknowledges the band and others involved in a very special way. Promoting local talent, he recruited Christen Zuch (along with her angelic voice) and guitarist Jeremy Brendan Day to open up the show. Both have been in the Kitchener-Waterloo music scene for years and did an extremely admirable job warming up the crowd.
Bursting out of the gate, Steve opened up with an acoustic solo set featuring six brand new songs. Armed with his 12-string and instantly revving up the ever-growing crowd of approximately 250, he played “Haven’t Seen It Yet”, the first single on A Natural Fact. Mixed between blues and country with a foot-stomping beat, it offered some fabulous slide guitar, something that would be common throughout the night.
“You Do It To Yourself” exemplified the excellence in Steve’s finger-picking style (no wonder he’s an award winner!). While the previous song demonstrated his powerful vocal abilities, here Steve took a step back, softening things up possibly to convey some of the self-empathy the song speaks of. Next, we segued into some down-right dirty blues with “I Got Trouble”. This took my imagination to movies featuring the Deep South in sweltering summer heat. You know the kind, right? Featuring a sensual blues song. And it’s so hot there’s always a great looking woman wiping the sweat off her forehead while her nearly opaque dress is soaked through and clinging to every inch of her body. “I Got Trouble”? Steve’s got a dirty but “hot” blues song here.
Oh, baby! Steve on the harmonica! That was enough to get everyone clapping and stomping their feet. “Just One Thing” featured fabulous harp along with a chance for Steve to showcase his voice, which is polished, professional and powerfully accentuates his music style. Ending the solo set, local producer and Steve’s dear friend Rob Szabo joined him on stage, with guitar in hand, for “Coming Home Tonight.” It’s a softer, sweeter ballad. Featuring a sweet guitar solo, “Coming Home Tonight” was written for his large and supportive family.
Reflecting Steve’s desire to make this a family/party atmosphere, the twelve or fifteen round tables set in front of the stage were all completely full, along with a mass of people standing and partying behind. With the intro of his band came three more new songs from A Natural Fact. “Full Of You”, “I Forgot” and “The Mood” are all bluesy, almost bluegrass-style songs featuring wonderful standup bass, piano, harmonica, slide and some very tasteful solos on the Dobro. “The Mood” was actually more of a cool upbeat blues tune where, complete with help from Rob Szabo, Steve’s soloing shone big time!
For the next hour we were entertained with the likes of “Big Legged Woman”, “Silhouette” and “Soul Searching” (featuring some amazing vocals), all from his earlier album, Honey, along with “That’s What She Does”, “Wasting Time” and “Mean To Me”, all from his last album, Blues In Colour. Completing his coverage of A Natural Fact, four more new songs were weaved in amongst these slightly older ones. “Rocking Chair Blues” and “Leaving” are just good-old blues-rockers with excellent guitar and piano solos, ideal for swaying one’s body back and forth while sipping a beer! “Secret” brought out the 12-string acoustic Steve started the show with. It was a hand-clapping, everyone-stand-up-and-join-in party song featuring mean slide guitar.
The final songs included “Can’t Back Down,” from Blues In Colour. It was a perfect song to bring the night near closure, as it’s reminiscent of the very first song of the night “Haven’t Seen It Yet”. This was followed by a well-deserved two-song encore: one being solo on the acoustic and the second with the band featuring the light-hearted and fun “The Birthday Song” from Honey.
After the first song Steve Strongman told us, “I’m really proud of this CD and I look forward to showing people a different artistic side!” And he absolutely should be! The CD itself is fun, creative, very professional and full of terrific talent local to the Hamilton-Kitchener-Waterloo area. The band is full of superb musicians with tremendous chemistry. This CD release party was a blast to be part of. It was powerful yet endearing and passionate. Charisma shone brightly yet the blues at times were down-right dirty! Steve, enjoy this as you should but I’m already excited about your next project! I can’t wait!