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Steve Unruh - Sampler 2009 CD (album) cover


Steve Unruh

Prog Folk

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the 3rd sampler from Steve Unruh after the 2005 and 2007 respective ones. In the same manner, the sampler picks out single tracks from Steve's various works and blends them together. To those unfamiliar, Steve Unruh is a one-man prog-folk band, playing all the instruments with an exceptional way. The addition of flute and violin along with the powerful, dynamic acoustic guitar playing is what makes his music different and worthwhile paying attention.

Most of the compositions are again instrumental; where vocals are present these are delivered in a good fashion. The opening track is pretty self-explanatory (!) as it is a mixture of musical 'attacks' and 'retreats'; or in other terms fast-paced guitar/violin acoustic passages interchanging with mellower parts and numerous breaks; a very dynamic track and one of the best compositions that I have heard from this man. The flute melodies flowing through the second half of the track are simply beautiful while after this short break the dynamic virtuosic acoustic-guitar playing returns and concludes the track. The artist himself describes it as "one of the hardest he has ever composed".

With the exception of Two Little Awakenings (title track from the respective album), the tracks in this compilation represent later works from the artist. Another element that was absent from previous compositions is the inclusion of a full-band track called Restless Angel, taken from Resistor's debut album. The track definitely bears Steve's compositional elements; however there are no acoustic guitars, flutes and violins dominating here, just pure heavy rock with smart melodies and powerful guitar riffs - the only "electric" song in this compilation. This mini epic (i.e. about 12 minutes long) is described by the composer himself as "one of his favourite recent pieces" and indeed it sounds as a solid, well-worked rock track. The violins that kick in towards the end of the track give off a fine touch.

Lotus Victorius, yet another instrumental track, comes from the album 'Song to the Sky' and is pretty representative of Unruh's overall sound: simple acoustic guitar melodies coloured with a passionate violin performance which resembles to the folk legends of the past (e.g. Ian Anderson). Contrary to the opening track, this one ranges between slow and modern-folk-style medium tempos but does not lack in inspiration - the acoustic solos and the bass tunes prove that. Life without Pain has been recorded for the film 'Air' and brings along a 70's sound. This is one of the few ballads I have personally experienced from his works which evolves to a very 'touchy', emotionally sung effort with simple but attractive melodies; strangely, one of the best ballads I have recently listened to which is summarised as "for what life is a life without pain".

The title track from 'Two Little Awakenings" is the epic (~18 minutes long) that sums up this compilation. The track starts off in the same manner that the previous ended e.g. very smoothly and gradually builds up from the 4th minute onwards. However, the track for at least half its duration is dominated by modern, 'sweet' American melodies that left me quite indifferent. The variety of instruments is absent during the first 10 minutes or so while the composition does not really evolve promptly. The relatively weak lyrics and the unjustified duration of the track make this the least interesting musical piece here.

Despite this latter unfortunate (in my opinion) inclusion, the overall compilation is more than pleasant and has some really inspired moments. I would not hesitate to recommend this to all friends of modern folk and fans of acoustic guitar. Along with the rest of his compilations, this sampler is available for free download from the artist's website.

This almost excellent addition to my collection definitely has a place in my playlist and is well worth 3 stars.

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Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink

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