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Steve Mahabir: “Angel In Parkdale” – the songs wrap around your sinews like vines

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Posted January 29, 2017 by Peter Burns in Headlines

During his career, Steve Mahabir recorded three albums with the alt-rock group, Groovy Religion, and appeared on compilations and soundtracks, backed Jim Carroll for several Toronto shows and shared bills with the likes of the Beastie Boys, Hüsker Dü, Dream Syndicate, Barenaked Ladies and many others. As a child Steve Mahabir’s family moved from Trinidad to Canada. Exchanging an idyllic island lifestyle, for the gritty Toronto neighborhood of Parkdale. All grown up now, Steve has finally released his debut solo album, candidly titled “Angel In Parkdale”.

Steve Mahabir plays with a wonderful restraint, always putting the song first. This, naturally, makes perfect sense since his songwriting is so great. Mahabir’s playing is always passionate and raw, yet just as graceful and powerful. There is a clear indication that as a guitarist he can play with the best of them, but was saving it all up for when it was absolutely necessary.

It seems that “Angel In Parkdale” signifies that time. This is one of the most guitar and horn oriented albums I can recall in the last few years. And nothing is lost in translation – meaning that all twelve songs are wonderful.

From the opening acoustic- guitar slow burn of “Last Night I Had A Dream” to the incendiary “All About You” to the gorgeous “Riding Cowboy”, each tune is a study in tone, lyricism, and taste. Other highlights include the poignant “So Far Away,” “Voices In Your Head,” and “Hope I.C.U.”

There is a bluesy stoner groove to this whole recording with lots of competing melodies and improvisation. Granted, there are a half dozen mellow tunes, but even the other slow, bluesy tunes drive deep with masterfully rocking solos.

The songs wrap around your sinews like vines and make you move–the vocals and brass knock on your front door, the keys linger outside your upstairs, bedroom window begging you to join the adventure, and the bass, drums, and guitars already have your momma’s permission.

Just jump right in for some inspiring, pulse-pumping music. Steve Mahabir and the band plant a lot southern-rock roots, heavily influenced by traditional blues motifs, in a terrific blast from the past, probably made possible only by decades of playing.

From a production standpoint, the album is refreshingly “under produced” and gives the impression of a group of guys standing around some microphones and doing the songs in a single take. It has immediacy and life that are hard to find in other contemporary music. All throughout Steve Mahabir remains a great story teller, razor-sharp lyrics with a sprinkling of irony.

What makes this a great album though is that everyone playing here is perfect and there is a real sense of enthusiasm in these sessions. Each song is a gem of composition and hangs together seemingly effortlessly. Superb guitar sounds also abound with lots of vintage over-driven crunch.

Mahabir’s guitar work is impressive, in that he is a great lyrical player who blends in seamlessly with each song, not some hot-shot shredder out to prove what a fretboard genius he is. Each song has a different groove, which moves through softer folk-rock soundscapes to harder and edgier alt-rock anthems, but they all have a great sense of forward momentum that will bring a smile to your face.

In this era of iTunes, computer generated music, and other assorted garbage, it’s a real treat to hear a band that totally has its act together and is having a great time performing. Steve Mahabir hits nerve after raw nerve with his songs, capturing lightning in bottle and sharing the feeling you would get from a live performance of him and his group.

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