THE POISON TREE
THE POISON TREE
This record, dearest listener, was a long time in the making. Since high school, if you take Steve’s word for it. These are the songs, he says, that he’d have written and recorded when he was sixteen, if he’d had the chops and the experience and the nerve. He has all three now, more than his share, and these songs are the velvet evidence. They were written at home—mostly late at night, I’m guessing—then put through the collective filter of some of the best players in New York City, and recorded little by little, when time and money permitted, in all sorts of places, from the world-famous Sear Sound on 54th street to Steve’s own lovingly-made crackerjack studio in a basement under the Manhattan bridge. A lot of great bands happened to pass through that basement, and you can hear echoes here, if you listen closely enough; but it’s to the cabal of singer-songwriters that Steve truly belongs, people like A.C. Newman and Paul Simon and Bill Callahan and Leonard Cohen. He’s played with a lot of great talents since high school some of them have returned the favor here. He’s been feted and raved about and jammed with and envied by musicians who play in stadiums these days. Steve’s last project, The King of France, was courted by big swanky labels and fawned over by the likes of Spin andThe New Yorker. But he himself never felt quite at home in that band, or even in his own skin, which is part of what makes him the artist and truth-teller that he is. Elegant—even seductive—as this record can be, there’s a pain to these songs, a carefree kind of despair, and an honesty that can hurt to listen to. These are the songs a teenager would write, if that teenager happened to be a connoisseur of heartbreak. If that teenager could see into the future—see all the way, past the setbacks and the self-discovery and the sweetness and the terror—the result might sound something like The Poison Tree. If he was a very, very lucky boy, that is. There’s no arrogance to be heard on this record, no defensiveness, no posturing of any kind at all. A grown man’s hard-earned wisdom and skill went into making it, not to mention his love; but—as with everything true, on record or otherwise—hearing it can leave you as defenseless as a child.
John Wray, Berlin 10.9.10
December 11 – New York, NY – The Rock Shop with Thieving Irons