It was just on six years ago when I reviewed Steve Tallis‘ then latest release – The First Degree.
In fact it has taken Steve these six years to release his latest album – Where Many Rivers Meet.
So, does this mean he has been resting on his laurels over this time? Absolutely not!
Steve is a man who is always seeking to express himself through his music. For him, music is more than a love, – although it is that; it is more than having a talent – although he has that; it is an imperative!
Over these six years he has journeyed many times between his home town of Perth in West Australia and Paris, which is a city he loves, playing constantly.
With some fifty-two plus album releases between 1968 and 2020, there is no way anyone could argue that he doesn’t express his music through recording.
This latest album – Where Many Rivers Meet, is possibly in some ways, his most unusual release.
It is just Steve Tallis – no backing musicians, no backing singers. With 25 tracks, there is a lot to listen to and for those who have some idea of Steve’s vast repertoire – and I suspect very few know it all, I certainly don’t, there are glimpses of music styles from a variety of periods.
This is in fact Steve’s eighth self-produced album. When speaking with Steve he said that he had wanted to do a solo album for a longtime.
Well, he has delivered!
The title Where Many Rivers Meet, is a title that could represent a period in Steve’s long career, where he has bought together the origins of his music, origins rooted in the blues over which, and in fact through, Steve has impressed his own style, his own touch, his own mojo!
As you listen through this album he entertains, he challenges, sometimes he gets right in your face, and, he seduces you. Using his Gibson SG and 12 string Guild acoustic along with Capella field hollers and a touch of technology, he shares this album that symbolises fertility, rebirth and love.
This is a carefully crafted album but, it also is a very raw sound expressly conceived and carried out by Steve in conjunction with acclaimed engineer and producer – Rob Grant of Poons Head Studio.
Rob and his studio in Fremantle is well known and highly respected for its final product with such artists as Lenny Kravitz, Tame Impala, Jeff Martin, Death Cab For Cutie and many others, all of whom have availed themselves of his skills and his facilities.
The album is presented in mono!
This is most unusual in today’s world of not just stereo productions by multi-channel productions.
We don’t need to go back to the 1950’s to find when mono was last used in a profoundly effective way. Brilliant producer Phil Spector did not like stereo, and his recording style was thus not geared to making stereo masters.
He wanted to blend everything together, to rise and fall together without the prominence of one sound or instrument and he used mono recordings during the 1960’s to achieve this.
Now, by 1968 mono was all but dead although some 25 years later mono made a sort of comeback. In 1991 Phil Spector had issued a collection of unreleased songs with “Back to Mono” on the cover and he has even printed “Back to Mono” buttons.
There are some in the industry that still challenge the aesthetics of stereo. However, this is not the place for such a discussion. Needless to say as I listened to the albumI failed to even realise it wasn’t in stereo, in fact, the mix results in quite a powerful “wall of sound”.
The Cd is presented in a “gatefold” cardboard cover with a booklet enclosed. It is printed on high quality matt paper finish and contains lyrics to some of the tracks, photo’s and a selection of quotes from various reviews on Steve’s work.
So, to the music on this CD.
Of the 25 tracks, 16 are original creations and the remainder are known and lesser known compositions that Steve rearranged, such as by Huddie Leadbetter, Memphis Minnie and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Trying to chose a selection of tracks to share with you is really, really hard. There is such a diverse selection of styles – and I am starting with Track 2.
Track 1 is a high powered electric blues track, so it is quite a jolt when Track 2 – She Makes Me Shiver comes on. From the moment Steve’s 12 string kicks in, it is hard not to become immediately engrossed.
Steve is not Bob Dylan – nor would he want to be. However, it is not difficult to see how Dylan has had such an impactful effect upon Steve.
Check it out.
She Makes Me Shiver
Track 4 – Early In The Morning.
I have always loved this track and I have to say of the versions I have listened to, this is the most unusual in its overall production. It is a traditional blues number whose origins are lost in time.
Two versions come to mind in more recent years, one by Australia’s Purple Hearts in 1966, and a slightly less challenging version by Ginger Bakers Airforce in 1970.
At only 1min 24 seconds, it is a short track that tells the story of the pain of a black man – who IS all by himself.
Heavily processed – it works and works well, bringing a track possibly conceived over 100 years ago, into the here and now.
Early In The Morning
Moving to Track 8 and we have an example of Steve’s love and ability to do Capella.
Stewball, is a ‘song’ about a horse called Stewball and it’s a very infectious track with a great vocal hook.
I was curious about the story behind the track, and Steve told me that – “I picked up on the version of the song recorded in 1940 by Lead Belly and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet for the Victor label. Pretty much a work song, that was the second of several iterations of the folk song that arose in England in the late Eighteenth Century.”
So it appears that “Skewball” [note the use of the letter l and not t], born in 1741, was a racehorse bred by Francis, Second Earl of Goldolphin. The horse, a gelding, was purportedly the top earning racer in Ireland in 1752, when he was 11.
The song apparently originated as a ballad about a high stakes race occurring in the Curragh in Kildare, Ireland, in March 1752, which Skewball won.
It seems that according to John and Alan Lomax in American Ballads and Folk Songs, the ballad was converted into a work song by slaves – which is supported by the version of the lyrics published in their book. ‘Skewball’ apparently became ‘Stewball’ after the song migrated to the United States.
I just realised that I’m three tracks into the review and I haven’t shared an electric guitar based track, and what better one to feature than Track 10 – Where Many Rivers Meet.
Simply putting it, the words are sheer poetry. While Steve provides a powerful supporting guitar to this track, it is one I hope one day, that he revives with a full band.
This is an exceptional track.
My soul has tasted my lips kissed your soul
I’ve swallowed all my pride nibbled at regret
I have craved a love so true
I was forced fed many lies bitten off more than I can chew
I’ve read poems that melt in my mouth
Nothing tastes so sweet as the flavour of integrity
Dark clouds on every side
The sea of freedom the sea of love
When all is dark I turn to you
In the shape of a dragonfly I will fly to you
Where many rivers meet where many rivers meet
Where Many Rivers Meet
The final track for your enjoyment and edification is Track 17 – A Method To My Madness.
This track could be read in many ways and certainly for me it sums up some of Steve’s key philosophies on life. So not only do we have a musically entreating track, but one that is filled with meaning for the artist.
This is one of the key features of great writers and singers, whether it be John Lennon or even the little known guy down the road who records a track because he has something important to say, and says it with passion and talent.
In a world full of disposability – hanging onto things that are true to us is not just important, it is critical for us to survive a humans.
“When the devil tries to take me
Some friends do forsake me
I’m travelling through the world
Trying to do the best I can
Steve shows in this song, that what he wrote in the track, Where Many Rivers Meet, is the truth – “Nothing tastes so sweet as the flavour of integrity”.
A Method To My Madness
I have only provided five tracks, and in many ways this does the album a disservice – as it is rich in variety, it is rich in style, it is rich in passion and talent.
Christmas is rapidly travelling toward us, so do yourself a favour and buy yourself a copy as a gift to yourself – and while you are at it, what a great gift for a friend.
Australia is, and always has been, rich in talent. At a period where less “true’ music is being heard, it is only right that we support all Australian artists who make the effort to provide us with class music that is rarely heard on radio.
When that talent is of the quality of Steve Tallis, then it is talent and effort that deserves recognition and reward.
Steve Tallis is a passionate, driven and proudly independent musician who in his own way evokes the universal values of life, death, love, sex, transmission, filiation, sharing, energy, faith, beliefs, revolt.
Uncompromising in his artistic integrity, he is one of the few artists brave enough to stand naked and imperfect in an industry that encourages compliance.
What more do you need to know to encourage you to buy his album – Where Many Rivers Meet.
While there are no videos associated with this album, there are a selection available featuring Steve and a great interview.
Steve Tallis and Ismael – “Woman Is A Secret/Black Betty”: Paris 2016
Steve Tallis and The Troublemakers – Living In Hell: Live At The Swan Basement – 2016
Steve Tallis and The Troublemakers – Silence In The House of God: Live At The Swan Basement – 2016