Jason Steel – Crucible Songs
Rif Mountain – 2017
Jason Steel’s long-awaited return to the music scene (following what’s described as an “unfortunate decision to pursue a teaching career”) is to be celebrated – and what better way to celebrate than with a set of new songs from this innovative, unassumingly virtuoso guitarist and intriguing songwriter.
In effect a six-part cycle (comprising five songs and a brief instrumental), Crucible Songs takes its inspiration from Arthur Miller’s landmark 50s play The Crucible; some knowledge of the play will help in appreciating the songs, I guess, but at least the lyrics are given in the package even if a synopsis of the play isn’t included.
It’s certainly a very powerful mini-album, which packs some quite remarkable music into its 27-minute time span. Recorded live in the studio by John Hannon, Jason performs solo, accompanying himself on guitar or banjo, and the effect is mesmerising in the extreme. Generally, Jason’s writing is meditative in style, whether intense with obsession (Abigail and We Danced) or guilt (Royal The Flesh) or finally more reflective with a redemptive aura (John The Scorpion). Jason’s minimalist approach produces a paradoxically rich musical tapestry, especially on Abigail which features the eerie sound of a bowed banjo. Crucible Songs is, like all the current crop of Rif Mountain releases, a limited-edition – so my advice is to get it while you can.
RM024CD / Hand-numbered edition of 99. Available Now via Rif Mountain.