I do a lot of driving in cars. When you live in Western New York and around a lot of rural towns, it’s kinda the in vogue thing to do if you want to get anywhere considered interesting. Journeys of importance are often long, very involved, and hopefully worth the price of admission by the time you’ve gotten to your destination and back home again.
So with that thought always usually very firmly in mind, music is a vital companion for passing through and experiencing car time. Whether it’s that day’s playlist, a record hot off the new release pile or an old favorite, getting the vibe of the moment as those wheels hit the pavement is ever-presently…. vital to the mood when everything is said and done.
And, with that bit of obvious wordplay now put out there, I feel those same critical road trip vibes coursing through Stephen Babcock’s newly-released LP Said & Done. From the opening guitar chucking away on “Someday”, I can almost sense a smooth California sunshine streaming in my eyes from between large green road signs and speed limits (even as Babcock narrates about the Mason Dixon line and Southern girls wrapped in sundresses and pearls).
I think it’s something in Babcock’s influences to the likes of John Mayer and Jason Mraz that keep me initially looking a little further West than down South, but as Said moves along the mood moves with it across the map. “Tightrope” changes that initial folk-pop handshake into more of a heady chaser of rollicking blues rock tension balladry, while “Cape Cod” swoons into pensively percussive-laden indie, and “Worth” and “Wedding Ring” stand out as steps into separate sides of the contemplation/joyful free-for-all that soulful and organ-rich Americana can be.
Though for all of Babcock’s often lighter-sounding trips into that joyful veneer, his words and stories hide something a bit more bitterly muttered once you lay between the surface of the sheets. Much like Ryan Adams and the glossy overtones of his 2001 summery smash Gold, while the music might burn like a firecracker the mantras and choruses beneath sound more burnt out than burning bright.
And that’s the moment where the wheels truly touch the asphalt and grip with such relatable humanity on the journey of Said & Done. Because while there are plenty of our life moments that act as the metaphorical “wind in your hair, cruising down the road at 70” snapshots, all too often those are just escapes. A brilliant disguise, as Bruce Springsteen says, when all we’d really like to do is reflect on bitter breakups, bad endings, and being anywhere else besides the situational hand of cards we’ve just been dealt out by the dealer.
Thankfully, Babcock is more than willing to provide the car keys on Said & Done, a release that is awash in a swell of songs easily capable of blending pop to a variety of ever-mixing genres, insanely memorable hooks that are easy to dig your fingers into, and tunes that speak to the heart as easily as their rhythm sections do.
It’s the work of a fine young singer-songwriter, and forget about Said & Done. When it comes to what Stephen Babcock has put out for our listening ears, the only feeling I experience… is Far From Finished.
Stephen Babcock’s new album Said & Done is available now for purchase on Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon, and can also be streamed for your pleasure over on Spotify!
For more on Stephen, feel free to visit his various social media outlets across the web, and check out the interview I did with him in my last post!
All photos are courtesy of Stephen Babcock’s artist Facebook page.