Adam Haworth Stephens’ solo demos have been floating about on Myspace for around 18 months, yet it was not until 28th September that the singer songwriter half of folk-punk duo Two Gallants released this material on Saddle Creek records under the title We Live on Cliffs.
After touring heavily for five years as Two Gallants, Stephens took a break to focus on new projects and this summer began a series of tour dates across the States with a four-piece band, following on from which, he will be supporting The Felice Brothers’ on their Fall US tour.
While stylistically there is no stark contrast between his work with Tyson Vogel as Two Gallants, there is an intimacy in the first person accounts he expounds that give this record an altogether more personal feel. “These songs are about desperation,” says Stephens. “The desperation to make something of living, to find a sense of ease, to find someone to love and to maintain that fleeting feeling of love.”
This much is certainly at the forefront of the desperate, yet subtly hopeful lyrics which are placed alongside the often catchy 2GS style brash, folk instrumentation. As Stephens suggests, life is always close to destruction – the title of the album suggesting the fine art of teetering on the cliff face of life and “dancing upon a flame” as he utters in “Praises in You Name”. The album too, in its imagery paints visceral, gritty landscapes of barrenness that go hand in hand with the feelings of isolation channeled. While there is still the ‘guttural tragicness of it all’ sense to We Live on Cliffs, the windows into specific situations of sadness aren’t the focus here, more an individual yet universal loneliness and desperation – weighted with a determination to improve, in the vocals that carry it.
Stephens has, whether jokingly or not, labelled his music “healing music”, and while it may be drowning in misery it’s a cathartic lament for narrator and listener alike, finding small flickers of hope along the way and expelling demons once welcomed: “oh reckless love don’t hang around my door“.
You aren’t going to find huge differences on an initial few listens, but neither is this to suggest that the record is a slow burner. Elements of thick country twinged string arrangements weave their way through tracks and a harsh yet compelling honesty runs in the veins of the singer, whose gravelly vocals don’t grate on the ear but rather urge them to listen. “With Vengeance Come” is perhaps the biggest transition in style employing twinkling piano to the ballad, while proceeding track “Heights of Diamond” proves Stephens’ lyrical style as still his glittering trait. His dirty, unadorned words of wisdom like a diamond in the rough.
Praise Your Name:
[audio:http://c0026724.cdn1.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/Adam Haworth Stephens/01 Praises in Your Name.mp3|titles=Praise Your Name|artists=Adam Haworth Stephens]
With Vengeance Come:
[audio:http://c0026724.cdn1.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/Adam Haworth Stephens/03 With Vengeance Come.mp3|titles=With Vengeance Come|artists=Adam Haworth Stephens]
Heights of Diamonds
[audio:http://c0026724.cdn1.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/Adam Haworth Stephens/04 Heights of Diamond.mp3|titles=Heights of Diamonds|artists=Adam Haworth Stephens]
Video: Album Preview