Subtly crafted gorgeousness abounds on Australian songwriter’s debut.
Steve Wallis is an Australian singer songwriter who has resided in Paris for nearly a decade. This, his debut album, following the success of 2018 single ‘Melbourne Rain’, has little overt reference to France. It is, however, steeped in everything that makes the best acoustic songwriters so special, expressing the inner worlds we all inhabit. Make no mistake, this album heralds the arrival of a very significant talent, and one who deserves to find his record lauded alongside the greats of the genre, whether that is Townes van Zandt, James Taylor, Carole King, or the more recent talents of Courtney Marie Andrews, John Moreland and Gregory Alan Isakov.
There is an unassuming, slightly world weary tone to the songs here that is extremely affecting; frequently with a slight country tinge (think Ryan Bingham’s ‘Weary Kind’ or van Zandt’s ‘To Live is To Fly’), these are songs of beauty and knowledge, gift wrapped in subtle acoustic arrangements.
Hushed opener ‘The Loneliest’ sets the tone, beautifully understated, highly emotionally charged, but without any sense of diva drama. It is a flagstone for what follows, as one song after another leads you on a quietly devastating journey, with occasional glimpses of hope and humour.
Second track ‘Mary’ adds a hooky ear worm of a chorus to the mix, and from there, the highlights keep flowing thick and fast – the yearning ‘Her Name’, the intoxicating pedal steel/piano combination on ‘Waiting For Someday’, the majestic love poetry of ‘Little Pearls of Water’. These are immaculate songs, and you sense Wallis has reached deep inside himself to pull them out. Once conceived, they have then been nurtured carefully with fellow songwriter and producer Joe Boon, giving just the right amount of backing to bring them to life, but not an ounce more than is needed.
The main thing that elevates this collection, though, is the songs themselves…it is probably artificial to break down music into ‘lyrics’, melody’, ‘rhythmic feel’, ‘musicianship’, ‘voice’… it is the whole package that generally decides whether it engages the listener or not, and this is the whole package. Pretty much everything captivates, and only goes on getting deeper and richer with successive listens. Quality seeps through every moment, and quickly this record becomes like many records of old, a friend to see you through good times and bad.