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Steve Unruh

Prog Folk

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Steve Unruh Precipice album cover
3.86 | 100 ratings | 2 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2019

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Luxury Denial (10:38)
2. Uncharted Waters (4:18)
3. Send the Sunshine (5:41)
4. Reckoning (9:00)
5. Suspension (2:09)
6. Constellation (5:39)
7. Precipice (9:42)

Total Time 47:07

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Unruh / violin, flute, vocals, guitar, sitar, bass, drums, keyboards, mandolin, kalimba, angklung, percussion, composer

Releases information

CD self-released (2019, US)

Digital album

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STEVE UNRUH Precipice ratings distribution

(100 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

STEVE UNRUH Precipice reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Steve Unruh is a prog folk artist that performs with the bands "Resistor", "Samaria of Prog" and "United Progressive Fraternity", but also has released several solo albums. His solo music is usually quite organic and on his solo albums, he usually performs all of the vocals and instruments. His 9th full length solo album is called "Precipice", was released in July of 2019, and is divided up into 9 total tracks ranging between 2 minutes almost up to 11 minutes each. The total run-time of this album is just a tad over 47 minutes.

"Luxury Denial" (10:38) starts off with acoustic guitar and Steve's frantic vocals, and soon the beat is establish by uptempo drums, synths, violin, bass joining in for a surprisingly upbeat first track, that also remains true to his organic feel. The later addition of flute, played with a Tull-like attitude adds even more energy to the mix. Suddenly, just before 3 minutes, everything stops, and the acoustic guitar comes back alone, and pensive vocals come back. The vocals are quite intriguing, nice to listen to, full of energy when needed like Ian Anderson, yet soft and deep like Cat Stevens at times. The lyrics are also quite captivating and the emotion matches the direction of the music and the lyrics. The song builds a bit, but a sudden bass pattern hints at more development, and the drums burst in with progressive patterns. This soon moves to a swirling instrumental section with an excellent bass sound and riff, fast acoustic strumming and upbeat drums again. Wordless vocals follow the melody played by the violin. The music is great, both true to the organics and infectious at the same time. The violin and flute interplay that comes later is excellent. Then the beat slows to a more moderate tempo and the violin gets to shine some more before the last section of vocals come in. The fast acoustic and bass guitars return and Steve's frantic vocals also come back this time driving the track forward to the end. Excellent!

"Uncharted Waters" (4:18) starts off with electric piano and soon Steve's dynamic vocals come in with a nice melody. The 2nd verse brings in the other instruments, moderate drums, synths, violin, nice heavy bass. The music is more straightforward, but the melody is excellent. The instrumental break features great bass and flute leading the way. When the vocals return, Steve reaches way up into his highest register, and wow, what a range! "Send the Sunshine" (5:41) begins with fast progressive strumming and drumming, then the violin starts to saw away with a fluttering flute and etc. This one is very Tull sounding, bright and with a lilting, danceable sound. Steve just lets the instruments do all the work this time building the song up, but after a few vocals, the music calms to just violin and acoustic guitar playing a nice duet together. Then the violin takes over as percussion taps along. Guitar comes in later, and the picking is quite amazing as the music builds back up again with progressive drama. This is an awesome (almost all) instrumental track that will definitely get your attention. Full of both energy and beauty. Perfect!

"Reckoning" (8:59) begins with a duet between a Spanish style guitar and bass. Tapping percussion and a fluttering violin play along after a while, the vocals come in later. Again the progressive folk sound is strong here, and once again, Steve's vocals and instrumentation is dramatic and progressive, with a strong Spanish influence throughout. Just before 5 minutes, the acoustic guitar is featured again and Steve's vocals come back in following the melody established by the guitar, and the flute plays along with some flourish. Drama returns to his vocals, and the vocal/guitar work is excellent. Before 7 minutes, bass and drums bring back the rest of the band as the music intensifies again and then breaks into a steady, fast beat again.

"Suspension" (2:08) starts with tonal percussion, possible a xylophone type instrument, and flute flourishes. The tonal percussion and flute start to come together with a tropical feel, nice and airy, staying simple through the track. "Constellation" (5:38) slows the pace with vocals and acoustic guitar. An electronic beat comes in on the 2nd verse, but things remain soft, with the addition of twanging sitar staying in the background. AT 2 minutes, real drums brings in a nice, moderate and smooth sound and violins play the main melody. Then the acoustic guitar and bass play together on their own for a minute, then rolling cymbals bring back the full band sound again, and the beat is reestablished. The feeling remains nice and laid back. Then everything slows as child-like spoken vocals come in and the guitar and violin carry the track to a close.

"Precipice" (9:42) begins with a cappella vocals. Then the guitar, drums and bass take over, and the music builds to a nice, heavy acoustic workout. Violin joins in and the music continues to build. Frantic vocals come in, matching the heavy strumming patterns. A secondary melody comes in as the track continues, and then the flute gets added in as the vocals intensify. The music alternates between the two distinct melodies. At 4 minutes, things calm back down again. The music builds back up as it goes, and the track finishes on a upbeat and energetic note.

This album is excellent, totally enjoyable and mostly accessible, but yet progressive. The organic sound is clean, but occasionally there are electronics brought in, but not enough to ruin the organic sound. I find the music often similar to Jethro Tull, and not just because of the flute, but the excellent progressive folk sound. One main difference, though, is that the melodies are less complex than Tull, and Steve's vocals are much more dynamic and variant than Ian Anderson's . There is a lot less electric guitar too, most of the guitar work done by heavy bass and acoustic guitar, which still becomes quite heavy at times with very dynamic playing. I find this album enjoyable from the get to, and even though all of the playing is done by one person, you would never be able to guess because it seems that Unruh is a master of all of them. I highly recommend this album to those that love the prog folk sound of Jethro Tull and others. The music is a bit cleaner and simpler, but the talent is amazing all around.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Steve Unruh is, to be sure, a refreshing whirlwind of energy, virtuosity, and sonic excellence, whether he is operating with his own material or his numerous contributions to and/or collaborations with other prog artists. His fearless mastery of dozens of instruments alone is worthy of avid attention and respect, but his skill in the engineering and production room is, to me, equally astonishing; his presence has, in my humble opinion, vastly improved the performance levels as well as sound quality in every project with which he has been involved.

Precipice is listed as Steve's ninth solo release (since 1997! I always think of him as a "young newcomer"!) There are, without doubt, some monster songs and performances here but, as before, I find Steve's personal song structure a bit of an acquired taste (especially his voice)--one that I have not yet mastered (totally acquired). As with many prog artists, I marvel at his instrumental prowesses as well as his compositional choices (in terms of both instrumental palette and directionally), yet, at the end of the day, find myself never quite fully connecting to his music. I truly appreciate his contributions to Prog World--especially the way he champions the acoustic side of rock instrumentation but also in his dedicated commitment to manual mastery of the instruments he chooses. (Did I mention that Steve plays all instruments and engineered and produced this album all on his own?)

1. "Luxury Denial" (10:38) a totally unique, pop-folkie JTULL-esque set of songs melded and packaged into a nice 11-minute epic. (18/20)

2. "Uncharted Waters" (4:18) opens with a sad kind of minor chord pop feel with electric guitar and keyboard chords while Steve sings. The flute playing is great. (8.5/10)

3. "Send the Sunshine" (5:41) pure retro-JTULL for fast-movin' flute-driven first 2:30, then things slow down to a more old-time folk feel (Contra dance, anyone?) as the strings (violin, bass, take turns at the front and center for a couple minutes. When the music returns to full speed in the fifth minute, the violin keeps the lead while a full complement of folk-rock instruments bob and weave in support. (8.75/10)

4. "Reckoning" (9:00) opens gently, spaciously, with part-Will Ackerman, mostly-Spanish feel as acoustic guitars dominate until the light Spanish tapestry fills and settles into a supporting role for Steve to sing over. Things darken and deepen in a Porcupine Tree way in the third minute. As the song gets progressively heavier (matched by Steve's aggressive delivery of angry lyrics), I'm really liking this; that fourth minute was awesome. The fifth minute ends with a solo Spanish guitar, which is then joined by Steve's GENTLE GIANT/IAN ANDERSON-like singing in the sixth. At 6:30 an instrumental section begins imply though ominously before slowly building into a full band exposition with trilling flute, electric guitar, and violin trading solos. (18/20)

5. "Suspension" (2:09) kalimba and African percussion supporting flute solo. Nice African-feeling melody! (4.5/5)

6. "Constellation" (5:39) strummed acoustic guitar with Steve singing. Joined at the one minute mark by trip hoppy drum program and sitar. Interesting instrumental choices! At the two minute mark another shift takes us into some gut-wrenchingly beautiful music: chords, harmonics, melodies, it's all orgasmically gorgeous! But then it reverts back to acoustic guitar--this time picked in arpeggiated chords--with support from bass. At the end of the fifth minute multiple wind instruments enter. It sounds so ANTHONY PHILLIPS-ish! Then children's voices enter to signal the beginning of the song's deconstruction and finish. Beautiful! (9.5/10)

7. "Precipice" (9:42) opens sounding as if Porcupine Tree and KBB had teamed up around 2002. Great chorus with "silly life" lyric! The amped up passion in Steve's voice starting at the end of the third minute is so powerful and moving! There's a lot of familiar sound and feel here to the music of much under-appreciated GUY MANNING. Actually makes me want to cue up some of Guy's solo albums. Nice TONY PATTERSON-like vocal layering in the seventh minute--after which the soundscape broadens out with mandolin and lots of guitars in support of an instrumental section. UNITOPIA-sounding section as the vocals pick back up in the ninth minute. Glad to hear the return of that awesome chorus one more time before the song builds into its finale. Excellent! (18.5/20)

Total Time 47:07

I find it interesting that Steve had just completed a significant collaboration with UNITOPIA founder MARK TRUECK on this year's UNIVERSAL PROGRESSIVE FRATERNITY release, Planetary Overload, Part 1 - Loss--and album that I am very familiar and fond of--because there were many times, both sonically and lyrically, in which I found myself thinking I was back in that UPF album--even vocally!

A-/five stars; a minor-masterpiece of progressive rock music coming from the folk-rock angle.

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