Review: Stephen Harrison “Today Tomorrow”

Stephen Harrison “Today Tomorrow”

03 May, 2012 Justin Kreitzer

Veteran Edinburgh singer songwriter Stephen Harrison released his new album, Today Tomorrow at the beginning of this year on his own indie label Close Up Records UK. It is available on CD through his website and digitally on his Bandcamp page. Harrison has been creating music now for over thirty-three years, starting back in 1979 with his post punk band Metropak, and following to his solo work that leaned toward the rock end of the spectrum, until recently, he has sharpened his focus on the intimate acoustic-based folk-leaning singer songwriter fair that makes up his sixth solo album, Today Tomorrow. Stephen possesses a rich and commanding voice that fits somewhere in between David Bowie and the booming baritone of Matt Berningner of The National. His fingerstyle guitar work on the album has a melancholic and dulcet, Nick Drake-like tone with added piano, bass and the occasional lilting string section to lend some additional emotional weight.

The title track “Today Tomorrow” opens the album, setting the tone with a dusky love song with gently picked acoustic guitars and some romantic, moonlit melodies. The touching lyrics to the song are also the only lyrics included in the CD liner notes, making them that much more meaningful. Likewise, Stephen Harrison know that so much of music is about the feeling it gives you or the memories you have of when you first heard the song and the nostalgia-laced “Imagination” will capture yours with cascading guitars and imaginative lyrics using scenes in nature to evoke a night around the campfire with old friends. The more upbeat “Graffiti On A Wall” features a synthesized horn section with a melody that is instantly hummable but unfortunately sounds just a little bit too fake and distracts, feeling out of place with the beautiful organic folk that surrounds it. However, the synthesized strings propel the song with an emotional depth that matches the intensity of the lyrics. Elsewhere, the haunting and heart aching “Don’t Cry” spotlights the veteran songwriter’s knack for subtle yet ear-worming melodies set to an understated and unadorned arrangement. Cyclical guitars churn on the atmospheric standout track “Sphinx City” which paints picture of a barren and desolate city of one, dripping slow burning emotion with every note. Another standout track, “And If” is a touching and intimate ballad of love, regret and renewal that features soaring synthesized strings and a lively piano riff that nearly mirrors the guitar in a way that blends together into one, for the album’s biggest, most powerful sound. “Looking Back” shines the spotlight on Stephen’s guitar work with several melodic guitar runs that complement the hypnotic rhythm he creates with his fingerstyle guitar sound. “Shoegaze People” features a more ornate folk-leaning arrangement with banjo, bright piano chords and sparkling guitar melodies for a bit of a change of pace as Harrison sounds like a less melancholic Leonard Cohen on the standout track. “River Of Time” rides in on a wave of slightly bouncy acoustic guitars with little else accompanying it, showcasing the simplicity and great power a great voice and guitar can hold. Saving the best for last, “Nobody There” closes out the ten track album with gorgeous, breathy guest vocals from singer Karen Edward that are the perfect complement to Harrison’s molasses-thick vocals.

Although he isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel with his album, Today Tomorrow, Stephen Harrison does reveal a softer side as he steps out of his life-long rock music comfort zone to come full circle and focus more on the folk-driven, singer-songwriter material he started his career with and the resulting album is perfect for rainy day listening and a tribute to his sharp songwriting skill, deft guitar playing, and smooth voice.

Review by Justin Kreitzer
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)