Something Real

Steve Seskin

(SR 108)

Seskin Records
P.O. Box 2362
Richmond, CA 94802-1362

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch
(moben@internet-zahav.net)

_

This is Seskin's 13th recording, his third on CD. His first LP appeared in 1975 and much of his music seems to be rooted there. This CD is reminiscent of the folkies that were "in" in the seventies, like Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Steve Goodman, Dan Fogelberg, and even John Denver. This doesn't mean that Seskin's music is derivative, he is his own man and can stand against all these stars.

Seskin seems to have decided, like many other songwriters of megahits, to keep a low profile as a performer. It seems that his day job as a songwriter for the hat acts (like John Michael Montgomery, Neal McCoy and Alabama) gives him a nice income so, as he says, his performances since 1988 have been "for fun." His CDs are on his own label, you rarely see them in catalogs or record stores.

This is not "land of the bottom line" territory, the whole experience is one of joy, love and hope. In Something Real, the real thing is love. It is the solution to everything and all that matters. Except for one Don Henry cover (Henry is himself a famous and much covered songwriter, also on the positive side of life), all the songs were co-written by Seskin and others. The co-writers include Allen Shamblin, John Scott Sherrill, Bob Dipierro, Mark Sanders, and others. The reason for the overall optimism of this CD may be that you can't be too depressed if you are composing songs with others.

The instrumentation is a full 5-6 member band including Phil Baker (bass), Tim Ellis (guitar), Gary Ogan (organ), Greg Williams (drums), and many others. Special mention goes to the fiddling of Tammy Rodgers on Just for the Fun of It and One Mississippi. The production is by Craig Carothers and is very clean and clear. It stresses the strength of all the musicians and Seskin's voice. Audiophile quality.

The music flows gracefully and merges convincingly folk, country, pop, soul, southern-rock, cajun and what used to be known as the sound of L.A. (remember Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonnoff and Jackson Browne?). This may seem like too many styles but it really works. This is a very professional recording as may be expected from someone after 12 albums. The only reason Seskin is not as famous as Billy Joel seems to be his own choice to stand behind the curtains. More than half the songs on this album could be hits and will probably make the charts (or did already) in other voices.

The only slight problems I felt with this album are that the songs verge sometimes towards the schmaltz and the commercial (it used to be a bad word when I was in college) and that sometimes I had the feeling that Seskin was not honest enough, or not involved enough, with his characters and chose the easy solution. This may be the result of years of success and the expectation from the artist to deliver another hit. I'll leave it to you to decide, as Cheryl Wheeler asks, if this is "love or is it Prozac?"

In the song Something Real we have an almost-confession of a man who "used to worship the almighty dollar" until he discovers the real thing- love. "It all comes down to love: for yourself, for your family..." As the titles imply, All About to Change and Love Can Do It All follow this thought in beautiful lines like "It's all about to change, like winter into spring, the birds have been there all along, but now I hear them sing."

It's a Jungle Out There finds our lover in the yard, realizing she (or he) was not joking and discovering he is not safe anymore. Use Mine is a song about a poor and happy childhood the adult is thinking about while sitting near his father's death bed. Just for the Fun of It is also a song about childhood in which the narrator remembers how he liked to write "Just for the fun of it, just cause it makes me smile, I'm going to find my imagination and let it run wild..." Following this song is Don Henry's Beautiful Fool about the innocence of Martin Luther King: "Oh, you beautiful fool, swimmin' upstream, kicking up waves, dreams weren't meant to come true, that's why they call them dreams. Oh, you beautiful fool. Walter Cronkite preempted Disney one night. All us kids were so upset..." I think that there is some kind of joke here but, like in many of Don Henry's songs, I don't seem to get it.

The closing song is, of course, "Love is All That Matters," again about childhood and the love of grandma, the memories brought by a photograph which can bring tears or laughter in different situations, and about the child who became an adult and is stressed by the reality of life.

Take this CD and listen to it on a lazy morning, a sunny afternoon or by candlelight with your sweetheart. Or better yet, with your wife. It will be a magic moment (if she is not into metal, trash or rap).

Song list

  • Something Real (Steve Seskin- Allen Shamblin)
  • All About to Change (Steve Seskin- John Scott Sherrill)
  • Love Can Do It All (Steve Seskin- Allen Shamblin)
  • It's a Jungle Out There (Steve Seskin- Craig Carothers)
  • Use Mine (Steve Seskin- Lisa Drew)
  • Then There's You (Steve Seskin- Paul Young- Pat Macdonald)
  • When the Chain Links Up Again (Steve Seskin- John Scott Sherrill)
  • One Mississippi (Steve Seskin- Bob Dipierro- Mark Sanders)
  • No Man's Land (Steve Seskin- John Scott Sherrill)
  • Something of Yours (Steve Seskin- Stacy Worthington)
  • Just for the Fun of It (Steve Seskin- Angela Kaset)
  • Beautiful Fool (Don Henry)
  • Love is All That Matters (Steve Seskin- Allen Shamblin)

Playing time: 53 mins.

Edited by Cynthia A. Harney

Copyright 1998, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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