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Steve Unruh - Challenging Gravity CD (album) cover


Steve Unruh


Prog Folk

4.00 | 57 ratings

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4 stars Progressive Folk heaven!

Steve Unruh has managed to master the playing of a big array of instruments, and this album is a proof of what he can do almost acoustically and completely solo with a few instruments (specifically: acoustic guitars, violin, vocals, drums, electric bass and flute) but in quite a different manner of what you may expect. Here you won't find crazy soloing or wild displays of skill (with counted exceptions), instead you are being treated with a tasteful display of sophistication and compositional skill in a very intimate and sober album.

Unruh's main instruments are the guitar and the violin, and these are the principal instrumental elements of the music presented here + his exceptional voice and lyrical abilities provide the music with a unique aura.

Now track by track:

Twilight In India, as the title announces, opens the album dominated by indian-styled melodies. This track presents a very simple instrumentation, something that doesn't make it anything of a leser composition, consisting on an acoustic guitar and Steve's vocals on the spotlight joined by some percussions on the background. An amazing ballad! Brilliant on its simplicity. 4.25

Challenging shows a more aggressive and somewhat complex side of Unruh's music, here we get a sample of every single instrument used in the album (except for the flute). At about the middle, the mood turns mellower with an amazingly beautiful violin taking the lead, to later return to the initial aggressiveness and conclude magnificently. 4.75

The Ocean developes on the mellow nature of the previous' track middle section, this time with the inclussion of great flute work (sort of Jethro Tull-ish but not quite). 4

The melancholic Bluebird is a violin driven instrumental backed by the guitar and the rhythm section. 4.25

Fighting Gravity is another nice ballad led by the guitar in the same vein of the previous pieces (I don't know why, but the vocals here keep reminding me of Neal Morse's). 4

The Path of Alhambra explores a classical and flamenco spanish guitar approach (which, through the Classical Guitar EP, was the style that initially got me into Unruh's music), again instrumental, with beautiful flamenco styled violin interventions. This piece features one of the very few pure skill demostrations present on this album. Sublime! 4.75

Dissolve approaches the aggressiveness of Challenging but in a proggier/experimental fashion (due to the lack of a better term). The highlight in here is the violin/guitar interplay. 4.5

Reflecting Pond closes the album with another take on the classical guitar style, this time with vocals. The final product is an emotional and hypnotic piece led by highly skilled guitar playing and beautiful vocals. 4.75

Total: 4.41

Don't get fooled by the rating, Fighting Gravity is a masterpiece of folk music (progressive folk maybe) but the rock element isn't really dominant and sometimes is even absent. From a progressive rock perspective this one is just an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Believe me, it is much more than that.

The genius behind this creation lies in its simplicity. The format is simple, but the music manages to be complex in structure, challenging and, above all, very tasteful. If you enjoy of good skilled folk music with classical/flamenco and prog rock touches this is guaranteed to become your new obsession, it is impossible to get tired of it!.

If you need some references this is, without being really precise, somewhere in the middle between Bob Dylan and acoustic Jethro Tull with some classical Spanish edges.

One of the best albums to be released in the last few decades! (and of course in my top 2010 albums list) 100% recomended for progressive folk nuts like myself!

Recommendation: best when listened as a whole, not just as individual tracks.

ProgressiveAttic | 4/5 |


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