Stephen Simmons
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Stephen Simmons

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2001
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

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"Stephen Simmons -Drink Ring Jesus"

AMERICAN SONGWRITER May/June 2006

STEPHEN SIMMONS Drink Ring Jesus
Locke Creek Records ****

It was fitting that Stephen Simmons leave his second album threadbare. The simple combination of his gruff-yet-nimble rasp and fine-spun acoustic guitar work, joined occasionally by forlorn harmonica, allow a lonely wind to rattle through musings on God, the devil and the tumbledown soul. Though the Tennessee-born singer/songwriter’s plainspoken narration of limping, booze-soaked spirituality began with 2004’s full-band debut, Last Call, this unvarnished song cycle stares still more unflinchingly at a jumble of unanswered questions. The title track poignantly portrays a nerveless, God-haunted workingman, while “Devil’s Work Is Never Done” voices a wry litany of complaints from Lucifer’s own mouth. “Dante’s Blues No.7” plumbs the depths of human vice, as the deadliest of sins play out in a dingy barroom scene. Under Simmons’ intense gaze, hope, despair and human striving earn greater meaning. –JEWLY HIGHT
- American Songwriter Magazine


"Stephen Simmons -Drink Ring Jesus Review"

THE NASHVILLE RAGE May 11, 2006
Stephen Simmons
Drink Ring Jesus
Locke Creek
He may look like Jay Farrar and draw comparisons to Steve Earle, but Nashville's Stephen Simmons proved on his 2004 debut, Last Call, that he was capable of carving out his own rough-hewn sound from the foundation that Earle and other Americana icons have laid down.
Simmons now follows up Last Call with Drink Ring Jesus, an all-acoustic affair that centers almost exclusively around the theme of redemption. It's not exactly a religious album in the CCM sense, but there's no question where Simmons' characters pull their faith from. Drunks, loners and other lost souls seek and find solace in most of these songs, but usually in unconventional ways.
The presentation is as stark and serious as you'd expect from Simmons' notoriously grumpy doppleganger, Farrar. But the world-weary sorts Simmons sings about should find the kind of hope he offers up easier to swallow than a sermon.
http://www.nashvillerage.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060511/RAGE0202/605110302/1199/RAGE
- The Nashville Rage


"Sound Advice: Stephen Simmons"

Go Triad --North Carolina

http://www.gotriad.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060619/GTCOM01/60614013/-1/GTCOMRSSARKIVE

Sound Advice: Stephen Simmons
Kathy Clark, Special to Go Triad
Published
June 19, 2006

Stephen Simmons
"Drink Ring Jesus"
Locke Creek Records
**** Stars
"Drink Ring Jesus," Stephen Simmons' second release on Locke Creek Records, is a startingly beautiful exploration of our search for redemption among the sacred and the profane. It is simultaneously stark, dark, hopeful and profound.

Simmons' deliciously rich baritone is gravelly and sweet with an epic sadness. His vocals are remniscent of a younger, less embittered Steve Earle or a more melodically articulate, less desolate Richard Buckner. On "Drink Ring Jesus" the only accompaniment to his vocals is his own guitar and an occasional harmonica wail.

Simmons is a master at complementing the content and delivery of his lyrics with a delicate and precise finger-picking style. The result is as emotionally sweeping as a symphony performed by a full orchestra.

Lyrically, he has an incredible capacity for evoking empathy from his listeners.

As much as Steve Earle will thrust his listener onto Death Row to explore the validity of institutionalized murder, Simmons puts us into the mind of the devil fighting with the Lord for our souls in "Devil's Work Is Never Done."

Or he'll seat us at a bar to stare at a painting of a "Cryin' Elvis" and reflect on the nature of our existence.

His upbringing in rural Tennessee is evident in his songs. His lyrics convey a tangible sense of the geography of the land and the mind.

At times, the external and internal landscapes merge as they do in the song "You Give Us:" "Been having problems with my soul/Four way stops I don't know which way to go/So I go down the trail halfway and turn back/End up nowhere always lost in my tracks."

In the song "Dante's Blues No. 7," Simmons artfully explores the seven deadly sins as they manifest through drink. It takes a particular mastery of metaphor to catapult an audience into a bar room inferno. Stephen Simmons has demonstrated his mastery with subtlety, intelligence and a refreshing lack of pretentiousness.

His bleak and sorrowful songs soon give way to the promise of redemption. The final three songs on "Drink Ring Jesus" lift our spirits and instill hope. "Next Stop Redemption" is a shining beacon of light with lyrics such as "So come on all aboard all you sinners/This train is leaving the station/We may be in Hell tonight/But this journey's only just begun/You can leave the things you want behind/We can all start anew in that station on high/This train is headed for your salvation/Next stop redemption."

Stephen Simmons opens for the everybodyfields at The Flying Anvil Saturday with his full band. Some of his songs can be heard at http://www.myspace.com/stephensimmons and at http://www.stephensimmonsmusic.com. ;


- Go Triad --North Carolina


"Stephen Simmons takes spiritual journey on new album"

The Tennessean
December 20, 2004 (Nashville, TN)
Stephen Simmons takes spiritual journey on new album

England’s Mojo magazine recently mentioned Music City troubadour Stephen Simmons as someone whose music is following in the footsteps of dearly departed Johnny Cash. That doesn’t mean Simmons sounds a thing like Cash; he doesn’t. Then again, nobody sounds like Johnny Cash, except folks who are trying to imitate him. And Simmons isn’t out to imitate.

Like Cash, though, his songs are often studies of sin and varying levels of redemption. Simmons was raised amid spiritual certainties in the Church of Christ, but Last Call is more about questions than answers. It’s a tense set of songs – Simmons publishes his work through the aptly titled Downguy Music – with the singer proclaiming, "There’s a dirty side of me that you ain’t ever seen," and "Pray Jesus ain’t around, man, to see me bow down." There’s an album-ending proclamation of "sweet salvation," but the ride there passes through some harrowing territories.

Simmons’ voice is an edgy instrument that sounds wise and lived-in, belying the "young buck" tag given him by Mojo. At times on Last Call, that voice is augmented by sparse instrumentation that recalls Bruce Springsteen’s plaintive Nebraska album. In other places, producer Eric Fritsch opts for a roots-rock approach.

Nashville all-stars including guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bass man Dave Jacques and drummer Paul Griffith ensure that transitions are seamless. Influences including Springsteen and Steve Earle are apparent, but Last Call reveals Simmons as a thoughtful, perceptive, emotionally riveting new voice.

Unavailable at big-box retail outlets, the album may be purchased at Grimey’s, at Tower Records or on the Internet through stephensimmonsmusic.com

— Peter Cooper
- The Tennessean


"Cash Crop"

MOJO Music Magazine
November, 2004 (UK)
CASH CROP
Five young bucks taking a lead from Johnny Cash.

1. Josh Ritter
2. Bobby Bare Jr.
3. Lucero
4. Waylon Payne
5. Stephen Simmons
(East) Tennessee native raised in the Church of (God in) Christ amid an extended family of hellraisers, Simmons channels that mixed-up childhood into hard-hitting ballads that owe as much to Jay Farrar as they do The Man In Black. Drunk, sober, or somewhere in between, Simmon’s words ring true.
Check out: Last Call, Locke Creek Records, 2004

— Andrea Lisle
- Mojo Music Magazine


"Best of Nashville 2004"

Nashville Scene - Best of Nashville 2004
October 06, 2004
Best Undiscovered Singer-Songwriter: Stephen Simmons
Simmons writes moving, sharply detailed lyrics about small-town people who spend their lives sitting in church pews or on barstools—and often both. He uses these settings to evocatively portray individuals seeking transcendence or relief while caught in internal conflict, and to talk about the influence families, religion, temptation and just plain boredom can have on a soul. And, like the best songwriters, he can illustrate how one bad choice, or a series of them, can reverberate long after the person realizes his or her mistake. Working around an acoustic base, but with a rocker's swagger, Simmons will draw comparisons to Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen and Chris Knight and other master storytellers. If he keeps making albums as good as his recent Last Call, someday he'll be mentioned alongside them. view article

— Michael McCall

- Nashville Scene


"Trascendental"


Nashville Scene
August 04, 2004

Transcendental
New album by local singer-songwriter plumbs lives of hard-pressed rural folk trying to get higher Stephen Simmons titled his new album Last Call (Locke Creek Records) because many of his characters have heard those words in two places: at closing time in nightclubs, when, as in the title track, a bartender calls out "last call for all you sinners"; and at the end of church, when the preacher makes the same plea. What Simmons does so well — with songs like "Baptism," "Sweet Salvation," "Dirty Side of Me" and "Forgive Me Father" — is portray individuals in search of transcendence but caught in internal conflict. He's also good at depicting how one bad choice, or a series of them, can bring down all the good that came before it.

A native of Woodbury, Tenn., Simmons was raised in a Church of Christ family of factory workers and farmers, and he draws on that background to examine the moral conflicts of impoverished country folk torn between their religious upbringing and carnal impulses.

Last Call balances gentle acoustic arrangments with rough-edged, guitar-driven roots rockers. Produced by Eric Fritsch, these songs are built around the sensitive rhythm section of bassist Dave Jacques and drummer (and Scene contributor) Paul Griffith, augmented by esteemed accompanists like steel player Paul Niehaus, guitarists Kenny Vaughn and Mike McAdam, and harmony singer Wendy Newcomer.

These outstanding musicians prove their worth by how unobtrusively they add to Simmons' songs. Nevertheless, it's the stories that stick, such as the bored young pranksters who bedevil a farmer until violence changes all of their lives, and the state trooper who ignores some childhood friends who cook up crystal meth in an out-of-the-way trailer, only to find his teen son O.D.'d on their product.

At his best, Simmons is as good as heartland songwriters like Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Knight and R.B. Morris, all of whom he calls to mind at times, even though his voice and lyrics have a potent punch distinctly his own. view article

— Michael McCall
- Nashville Scene


"Stephen Simmons, Last Call"

The New Zealand Herald
Winning ways with country
20.03.05
STEPHEN SIMMONS - LAST CALL (Southbound)
(Herald rating * * * *)

Tennessee-born Nashville-based singer-songwriter Stephen Simmons doesn't lie. A lesser artist might have opened an album with something up-tempo but Simmons starts as he means to go on with the downbeat The Good Life, I've Got Issues Baby I'll Probably Never Resolve.

His debut album Last Call announces the arrival of a major talent who views life from the perspective of the sinners, not the saved, from those who have driven the back roads, spent time inside, or live with guilt.

These finely detailed stories invite comparisons with Steve Earle and acoustic Bruce Springsteen, sung in a hard-edged sometimes slurry style which suggests indifference or not givin' a damn.

Terrific songs here: the wild-child narrative of Loserville; the sense of shame and avoidance of the past in Shirley's Stables; the unspoken menace of Dirty Side Of Me.

All this in spare arrangements, a few augmented by pedal steel, and every now and again some kicking drums. Good one all round.

Songs from hard-scrabble roads, bar stools and prison cells, ringing with sin and guilt and feeling utterly authentic. view article
– Graham Reid


- The New Zealand Herald


"STEPHEN SIMMONS | Something In Between"

2.01.07 UNCUT Magazine (UK)
STEPHEN SIMMONS | Something In Between
Third album from grainy US warbler

Beautiful as it often was, Simmons’ album from last year, Drink Ring Jesus was almost unremittingly bleak. Strung out over softly plucked acoustic guitar, Simmons’ songs flickered like dim bulbs in an empty church. Something In Between finds the Nashville man broadening the sound with mid-tempo rock (“Go Easy On Me”) and some classy country chug (“Cloudy In LA”), but mostly it’s gruff folk pickings in the vein of Steve Earle or Ray Wylie Hubbard. The great Al Perkins adds pedal steel to these sinister rumbles, acting as counterweight to Simmons’ dark tales of escape and despair. - 2.01.07 UNCUT Magazine (UK)


"2.08.08 The Washington Post"

02.08.08 The Washington Post

Stephen Simmons isn't related to anyone famous, but he sounds so much like Steve Earle that they could be nephew and uncle. That's not a bad thing, for not many singers achieve such a confident, full-bodied sound while delivering conversational confessions. Simmons's songwriting on his fourth album, Something in Between, differs from Earle's in its emphasis on such classic country fare as broken marriages and drunken regrets. It's odd to hear those themes set against the Dylanesque folk-rock arrangements fueled by producer David Briggs's organ and Simmons's harmonica, but it works. The Nashville singer-songwriter never whines and always offers a clear-eyed assessment of his own failures and lingering hopes. Those hopes come to the fore on "New Scratches," a boast that he's sticking out a new relationship despite all the cuts and bruises.

— Geoffrey Himes

- 2.08.08 The Washington Post


Discography


The Superstore (live) (2001 Locke Creek Records)

Last Call  (2004 Locke Creek / 2007 Rounder Europe Records)

Drink Ring Jesus  (2006 Locke Creek / 2007 Rounder Europe Records)

Something In Between  (2007 Rounder Europe / 2008 Americana Records)

The Blame's on U.S.  (2008 Locke Creek)

Girls  (2009 Locke Creek)

Live at Blue Highways  (2009 Continental Record Services)

The Big Show  (2010 Lower 40 / Blue Rose)

Hearsay  (2013 Lower 40)

Live at Take Root  (2013 Locke Creek)

What The Midnight Swallows Whole (2014 Locke Creek)


 

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Bio

Stephen Simmons was raised in the small towns of Woodbury & Manchester, Tennessee. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father held a factory job. In his family, they were the first generation that didnt work the farm. As a songwriter and Ten years as a Road Dog,  Stephens vision has grown to entail more than just reflections of rural America. The songs on his recordings, deal with existential realities that are familiar to country and city dwellers alike: redemption, heartbreak, hangovers and the loneliness of the road. Stephens records: The Superstore, Last Call, Drink Ring Jesus, Something In Between, The Blames On U.S., Girls, The Big Show and Hearsay (which were compared to everyone from Johnny Cash to Ryan Adams) combine virtuosic songcraft and musicianship with unparalleled artistic honesty.


Simmons released his debut studio album, Last Call, in 2004. Lay On The Tracks, a standout track from Last Call, was a winner at the prestigious MerleFest Chris Austin Songwriting Competition. Last Call was praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic, picked up and released by Rounder Europe Records, which were followed by three more Rounder Europe releases and extensive touring in Europe (including high profile shows at the Blue Highways, Rhythm and Blues, and Take Root Festivals in The Netherlands) as well as continued touring throughout the United States.  In 2010 Stephen released The Big Show on American Indie label Lower 40 Records and in Europe on Germanys premiere roots label; Blue Rose Records. Simmons newest effort; Hearsay was released in the USA on Lower 40 Records on July 28th, 2013.



"a singer-songwriter of marked depth and commitment, (he) recalls a more subdued Steve Earle, a more grounded Ryan Adams and any aggregation of three-named Texas troubadours you'd care to recall."

- -- Bill Friskics-Warren, THE NASHVILLE SCENE


"...not many singers achieve such a confident, full-bodied sound while delivering conversational confessions."

- Geoffrey Himes , THE WASHINGTON POST


"Vivid, intelligent and soulful."

- Rob Hughes, UNCUT (UK)


"...he's a Bible Belt barstool philosopher singing of sin and redemption. Intelligent, intense, and easy to like."

- Sylvie Simmons, MOJO (UK)

Band Members