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Secretly Canadian - SC301
Includes Digital Download
Outlaws and outsiders, road-trippers and lonely rollers; whether it's someone searching or someone who doesn't want to be found, we can't help but be drawn to the drifters. We love the wanderer with no patience for niceties, who can't be bothered by saccharine stories, because we know they're being called to seek out something more. Singer Steven A. Clark is that next stranger to roll in from out of town, a restless artist recasting R&B, a musician with a few stories to tell on the long drive ahead. He's a straight-talker in a genre filled with wish-fulfillment, whimsy and cliched beats; think the Outlaw Josey Wales raised on N.E.R.D. and 808s & Heartbreak. On his cinematic new album The Lonely Roller, Clark's descriptions of emotions and bad breaks, of flawed characters extricating themselves from tragic affairs, aren't just a set-up or storytelling device. It's personal identification set to song, new additions to a canon looking for fresh blood.
"Rhythm and blues ain't all candy and hearts," he says. "There is real emotion, and lots of times, artists don't always go there. Tapping into the darker side helps make a song more real, and keeps things fresh."
Miami by way of Fayetteville and Little Rock, Clark's musical journey began in the south with roots in hip-hop. Attracted to the honesty of the form as well as the creative potential--his respect for an artist like Andre 3000 puts his attachment to the genre in perspective--Clark's own style evolved toward verse. His raw, confessional singing and personal stories pair with pulsing synthesizers and rhythms that hang in the air like a glowing grid of roadside neon. It's a means for the soft-spoken artist to process all the drama in his head. On songs such as "Not You," he flips a brutally honest breakup tale and draws emotions and empathy from being on the "right" side of the conversation. The title track, where the sound of gravel crunching underfoot on the highway makes way for a slinky, sensual beat, creates a perfect backdrop to the story of a weekend-long tryst in Vegas. For a man of few words, his unadorned and uncomplicated lyrics hit home. The cover image, a pair of unmarked doors from some nondescript motel in the middle of nowhere, perfectly captures the tension of transition in Clark's lyrics.
On The Lonely Roller, Clark's style, refined and road-tested over the years on releases such as the Late EP, goes widescreen. A complete concept, the album flows and ties together, more of a movie and journey than isolated images and experiences. Clark spent last year traveling and reworking songs and stories from his past to show where he's at as an artist. In the studio, he worked with a composer, Sam Hyken, for the first time, allowing him to write string parts and arrangements that fleshed out each track. Different sounds, eras and influences, from Fleetwood Mac and Peter Gabriel to Michael Jackson, Tom Petty and yacht rock, floated in and out, but the end result was Clark's own travails and travels set to music.
"I don't want to just be some guy trying to bring something back, but I always think there is room for a flawed character," he says. "The characters in the songs and me, they're often the same guy. That's why I use my actual name. There's no point in just talking about the character on stage."
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