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ALBUM REVIEW

Steve Price and the Gray Owls
LESS THAN PERFECT STRANGER
©2011 Independently released
MTM251202
Review by Lucky Boyd
Co-Founder, MyTexasMusic.com

$12.49

Sophomore releases are always an interesting look at an artist’s career.  Sometimes it’s a collection of tunes that could have easily been on the debut.  Sometimes it’s a totally different direction for the artist.  Quite often it’s a disaster.  The term ‘sophomore’ means ‘wise fool’ and all too often it’s a description of the artist’s choices for their second album.  Oh, but then there are the Steve Prices of the world.  Steve knew enough to go back to the well and get Jack Saunders involved in his second project.  Rick Richards is back on drums.  Price still shows you he has those Townes Van Zandt qualities that make him a great folk singer.  But Price has done something more.  He has captured his country music side and let those influences reign throughout the project.  Almost every track could cross over and be considered a country song.  But you have to understand it’s not a country album.  There are still Tom Petty and Bob Dylan influences.  There are still folk undertones and rock rhythms.  There are tunes that are missing a fiddle and banjo to become bluegrass tracks.  Price has released something that will truly appeal to a much wider audience than his first album.  The performances are a little tighter and Price’s writing is a little more commercially concrete.  The instrumentation is simple but full, perfectly balanced for the spirit of each lyric.  The opening track sets a great tone for the disc and may not be what you expected from Price.  Now I’m pretty good at extracting meaning from songs, but Price has me stumped on the track “20 Years.”  The lyrics are fantastic with lines like “..traded in my penny whistle pipe dreams..” but I swear after listening a time or two, I still didn’t understand the motivation for the song.  That’s not a bad thing.  Hey, who can decipher some of the greats?  Remember “Hotel California”?  Regardless, the track is one of my faves.  Another favorite is “All I Really Need From You” which is another one of Price’s upbeat influenced-by-many-things tracks.  Favorite songs for dancing: “Outside Looking In” and “Desert Roadhouse.”  The best track is the title cut as Price defines what his sophomore release will say about him.  It’s often easy to tell what an artist is dealing with in his life by the songs he releases.  Some artists have ‘dark’ periods, or albums that ‘re-define’ them somehow.  Price was most likely dealing with something personal and ongoing as he recorded these songs, perhaps explaining the slight departure from his debut.  Nonetheless, times of strife or confusion often leave songwriters with their best material.  My only hope is that he didn’t really have to live through the tragic “Will Not Let This Darkness Bring Me Down.”  This is Price’s best collection to date, and if I remember correctly, I told readers before that Price would be around for a long time.  This album bears out that Price can record albums with appeal and carefully captured creativity.  With the right number of nights on stage, Price could easily become a sought-after commodity on the Texas music scene.  So, Steve, you’ve done the first part.  You have two really good albums out there.  Now, hit the road and share them with the world!  We’re already looking forward to the junior album!

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