Seeing that he’s now following this blog, I thought today would be a good day to introduce you good folks to the work or our dear friend down there in Nashville, Stephen Simmons.
Stephen and I met in the summer of 2006, and we met at the same place I met many of you fine people, at a Chili’s bar. That was the Charleston, WV location, and Stephen had broken up his trip from Virginia to Ohio to stop off in town to try to book a show at The Empty Glass.
Not coincidentally, Stephen would play The Glass four years later, and I would open for him, that being the only spoken word performance where I was actually on the bill.
Giving time, place, and station their due respect, it could be easy to say that those are the reasons that Something in Between became my favorite of Stephen’s albums. He and I met in July of 2006, and it was the first album he released after we became friends, hitting stores in January of 2008.
Those factors played a part certainly, they always do, but the true reason that this disc has become my favorite is that it’s simply a phenomenal album.
“I was really swinging for the fences on that one,” Stephen told me a few years back, when I commented on the strong list of songs he’d put together and how I couldn’t comprehend how the album hadn’t become a big hit.
If he was singing for the fences, then he certainly cleared them, and if there had been anyone in the stands, he would have become a household name. As it is, I imagine this is the first you’ve ever heard of him. If you give him a chance–and if you pay any attention to music in the Nashville sound–you’ll probably wonder how that is.
I don’t believe that a musician can choose the perfect song to kick off an album, but Mr. Simmons could have done a whole lot worse than “Don’t Mind Me.” I’ve written about how a piece of music can break the silence well, and this one certainly does that. There was nothing, and then there was this. And this sets the tone so well for what’s to come.
This a troubadour’s album, a collection of songs about a man in a truck with a guitar out there on those highways answering a call, the hardness of it and the strains the road puts on the relationships with those left back home.
The opening lines endear him to us. “Don’t mind me, if I sit here alone; I ain’t hurtin’ nobody if I’m drinking alone.”
The dude just wants to be left alone for awhile is all; we can respect that; we’ve been there. Plus, he’s a little feisty about it, and we dig his protecting his space. We like this dude, and we’ll hang with him as long as he doesn’t lose us. He doesn’t.
Being a troubadour’s album, the road, and what it causes, is what you get here, and you get it from a man who does nothing but live it. The album’s title, which comes from the song “Long Road,” doesn’t actually come out and say it that his life on the road is the “something in between” him and the woman he leaves behind, but if you spend as much time with this album as I have it’s easy to see.
“Don’t Mind Me” gives way to ten more tracks that help to fill in the effects that life on the road has on the singer. We get our trying to keep the relationship together numbers in “Cloudy in LA,” “Down Tonight,” “Hold You Today,” and “Go Easy on Me.” We get our couldn’t keep the relationship going songs in “Long Road,” “New Scratches,” and “Hey.” Then, we get our dealing with the road songs in “We’ll See” and “Blues on a Sunny Day.”
And you get the last track, which is nothing but a songwriter’s song, a troubadour’s message from the road. “All the Time I Got” has to be the final song on this album; no other could come close to closing out the collection as well. Oh, but if we could live in some magical land where that song plays last, while it’s opening stanzas open the album…man, that would just be sublime.
“Fillin’ station signs light up the cold dead night
with their number-driven art advertisin’ prices.
I’m out here all alone once more in this truck that won’t stay warm,
and humility reveals itself priceless.
It’s just about all the time I’ve got
to figure out all the things I’m not;
It’s just about all the time I’ll need,
sometimes all we are is just who we’ll be.
Are you kidding me? Troubadour? Poet? This is the kind of stuff that makes all of us other writers jealous.
Anywho. If you are in anyway interested in music that can be considered within the blanket of the Nashville sound, I urge, urge, urge you to check out this album. I think you’ll be pleased with the decision to do so.
Hey, thanks, and love. Until sometime soon…
- The full album isn’t album available on YouTube, so here’s the track “Down Tonight,” which is an excellent representation of the album. The other songs are available on YouTube individually.