Culture & Criticism Since 2003
HOW LONG. Steven Graves. Steven Graves Music.
Dennis McNally serves as Steven Graves’ press agent. Many will readily identify McNally’s name, as he held the same position for decades for the Grateful Dead. That fact alone speaks volumes: McNally knows when music has something culturally relevant to say, and I presume this is what drew him to work with Steven Graves – this music has something to say and Graves brings the chops with which to say it. This fact is beautifully exemplified by his latest record, How Long, which spotlights his intricate and layered songs. Listeners will quickly spot an amalgamation of influences in Graves’ work: Boz Scaggs; Steve Miller; The Dead; The Eagles; Dylan circa the mid 70s. Myriad influences, but no copy-cat stuff here. Instead, Graves is all about originality and depth of consciousness; the only blatant similarity I saw linking him to The Dead is the energy the music brings. The lead cut, from which the record draws its name, is captivating – the lilt built on the intersection of the drum and guitar lines and then augmented by the swirl of Graves’ vocals. “Let it Reign” stands out out for its sultry sexiness. “People Rise Up” calls the citizenry to awareness. A beautiful cover of The Dead’s “Sugaree” pays homage to Garcia and Weir, showing the multi-dimensional nature of the band’s reach. Finally, “Fly To the Stars” shows off the layers of Graves’ songwriting as the words swell against the motion of the music, with James Mikey Day’s piano on center stage. How Long is a record that comes from nowhere and commands your full attention: In a time when superficial attitudes and smart phone fodder dominate, Steven Graves returns us to a time when music held meaning and helped define the times in which we live.