A couple of days ago I reviewed a disc by a young Blues' artist that was genuinely fresh and original. A great mix of styles and attitudes, it was the type of recording that made you feel good about the state of the music industry for a change. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about a new release from another young performer.
Steve Mariner hails from the West Coast of Canada and has just released his first album, which, perhaps unwisely, he also produced. For while Going Up shows that he is not without talent and skill at what he does, the majority of his material is derivative and tedious.
With only a couple of exceptions the majority of the music on the album follow the standard rock/blues boy wanting girl theme. Like so many songs of this type, Steve's aren't far out of the locker room when it comes to their emotional maturity and have about as much sincerity as a beer commercial. I can actually see them being used in a beer commercial – one of those ones for Coor's Light with girls in tank tops and Stetsons.
Picking a song like "Shake It Upside Down" as your opening track where the lyrics invite girls to "Shake it shake it baby/Shake it upside down" pins you into a corner right off the start and doesn't do much to form a favourable impression among most sentient beings. While the third song "Remember Me" salvages a little dignity with a simplistic plea for the homeless, and the fourth song by J.D. Miller "I'm A Lover Not A Fighter" at least has a nice rockabilly feel to distinguish it, far too many of the tracks are variations on the "Oh Baby, Baby" theme.
The pity is that there are glimmers of real talent on this album. "El Encuentro" is a wonderful instrumental that he co wrote with Canadian guitarist Sue Foley and shows that both of them are far more skilled than the music they normally play would have you believe. Most Blues/Rock guitarists can run the scale and wail on their Telecasters with little or no problem, but there aren't that many who can pick out the complexities of a Flamenco beat.
Maybe "El Encuentro isn't exactly Flamenco, but it has a beautiful lush sound, with a more genuine display of emotion than any of his boy lust for girl songs that have preceded it. The song is a splendid example of guitar virtuosity on the part of both players.
Steve Marriner is talented; there is doubt about that. The only trouble is that it's hard to tell with the material he has selected for this disc. With the majority of his vocals delivered in the barker style preferred by young blues players, and his harmonica not challenged enough to be really memorable, there is no true way of knowing his true abilities.
The one thing that is clear from listening to Going Up is that if Steve wants his career to go up he will need to find himself a good producer. At least one who will put his talents to better use than he seems willing to commit to on his own.
Hiding under the noise of Going Up is a talented musician who only peeks out on occasion. It's not enough to make this an album worth buying, but it's enough to have some hope for Steve Marriner in the future.