Steve Roberts
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Steve Roberts

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The best kept secret in music

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"Shake It, Make It & Don't Fake It"

New album from STEVE ROBERTS who has been perfecting his skills for quite some considerable time now.

That being the case however, I guess you’d be forgiven for wondering whether, over time, a certain amount of jaded

cynicism might creep into the proceedings? Forgiven maybe, but forget it,you’d be way off the mark as this album contains a sprightly freshness that suggests a certain joie de vivre is still alive and kicking in Steve’s approach to making music.

It could be argued that previous album, ‘It Just Is’ was the zenith of his career so far, having been nominated for the Mercury Music prize, and this new album certainly lacks some of the polish of that earlier effort but, in no way does it suffer by comparison, quite the opposite. It is ten songs possessed of a naturalness, a minimalist approach, live and lively, and dripping with the evident enjoyment of those taking part.

Never is this more evident than on ‘Little Bird’ with it’s bouncing bass line, clapping rhythm and sprinkled banjo (courtesy of Robbie Taylor) that picks the whole thing up and swings it around the room with summery joy. ‘Circus’ manages to create - from a very limited palette - a sound that perfectly conjures up the ‘alien’ bustle and the blurry colours, smells and sounds of the big top and, with lines like “I’m dizzy with fright at this circus”, suggests the awed excitement of a child. However, look a bit deeper and the song contains a far more ‘adult’ message, the fear and sickness that’s implied relating to the treatment of all taking part (both human and animal performers?), the final line being, “And no-one’s got rights at this circus”. Very cleverly done.

‘Heartbreak’, despite its title, is another song that bounces along to a driving, clapping rhythm, almost reggae-ish, it is again quite minimal, Steve the sole contributor, yet has no problem sounding fully formed. Available as a single it is the album’s most immediate song and has a melody that’ll run around your head for days after hearing it.

‘Stupid, Stupid, Stupid’ is very beatlesque, particularly vocally and contains a gentle lilting rhythm, some nice harmonica and simple, plucked banjo notes. Probably the most maudlin song on offer is ‘Home’, but it has a lovely chorus that is wonderfully lifted back into it’s verses by some exquisite violin (Mr. Taylor again).

Weaker tracks would have to be ‘The Magic’s In The Trick’ that has a slightly uneven feel despite its Harry Potter popular reference to witches and wizards, and ‘To Be Like You’ with it’s waltz like shuffle, that is just a bit too sugary sweet. Indeed both could have been written for or about his children, nothing wrong in that per se (Woody Guthrie wrote some great children’s songs), but in the context of the album their lightness sits a little uncomfortably.

The album finishes with the best and most complete track on offer, “The Ballad Of Alaska”, which is a great song, beautifully played and carrying a message that suggests we should accept who and what we are, not regretting what we’ve ‘missed’ or envying what others have, a message that you feel is at the heart of Steve Roberts’ musical philosophy, perfectly summed up in the album’s title.

author: Christopher Stevens

- Whisperin & Hollerin


"It Just Is"

Liverpool singer/songwriter Steve Roberts releases his first solo album on the local Viper label. A veteran of the local music scene, Steve fronted the 16 Tambourines in the early 90’s and now with the help of some Lightning Seeds and a couple of La’s, strikes out on his own. Beatlesque without ever falling into the trap of merely imitating, Steve has delivered an album very much in the ‘classic pop’ vein. Demonstrating an enviable knack for writing instantly familiar melodies, here are 12 songs in a vaguely conceptual form (the album begins with a celebration of the sun and ends with “Go to Bed”). The opening track, the lovely “Pushed Far, Held Near” sets the tone with its’ string accompaniment and sweet, yearning vocal. As very personal, honest songs as they are, the themes are universal - life, love and family - and it’s all sung with such conviction and belief. The piano-led love song “Looking Through Your Eyes” is a personal favourite with a shuffling beat and wonderful harmonies (”you walked through my door, picked me off the floor….I couldn’t love you more”). Steve Roberts was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize for this LP and deservedly so. Whether it is actually Americana though, shouldn’t really matter. It’s either good music or it isn’t and if I might borrow the phrase for a moment, “It Just Is”. PB Americana UK - Americana UK


"Various"

‘….a fine, largely acoustic debut album welding the creepy folk pop noir of Love with the subtly grained songwriting style and vocal textures of Neil Finn.’ UNCUT Magazine

” Steve’s album arrived in the office and we all fell in love with it. A beautiful record ” Janice Long BBC Radio 2

‘It Just Is damned good. Enjoyable, beautiful strong songs with great music’. RADIO ATL Belguim

‘A collection of wonderfully crafted songs, memorable melodies and lyrics that aren't just written because they rhyme but because they say something’. Liverpool Echo

‘ ….. Steve Roberts, delivers with an album steeped in the singer-songwriter tradition, finishing with the immortal refrain getting drunk, getting stoned, go to bed’ BIG ISSUE

‘a fantastic album that grows from its acoustic origins to include trumpets, violins and cellos’. Crosby Herald May 2001

‘a natural talent as a songwriter, powerful vocals and brutally honest lyrics contrast with the acoustic instruments to produce an excellent and special album’. THE DAILY POST
- Various


Discography

16 Tambourines - How Green Is Your Valley Album - Arista - 1991 plus singles

The Tambourines - Various Indie Label Singles 1992 - 94

Steve Roberts - It Just Is - 2001 Viper
Steve Roberts - Holy Moses - The Great Liverpool Acoustic Experiment 2002
Steve Roberts - Dusty Trees - Moon Over The Downs, Trailer Star Tribute 2003
Steve Roberts - Shake It, Make It & Don't Fake It - Acoustic Engine. 2005
Steve Roberts - The Ballad of Alaska - What's Kickin Volume 2 2007

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Steve Roberts is a singer-songwriter from Liverpool, UK, described by The Guardian as an acoustic troubadour and bu RevolutionsUK as a songwriter to treasure.

His first proper band 16 Tambourines was a sprawling affair that played gigs as a 3 piece (the ‘angry young men’ set) up to an 8 piece with brass, percussion and on occasions a didgeridoo. The band played pubs and basement bars that usually only allowed cover bands. “We practised in the middle of town at a place called The Ministry, were the Bunnymen and Teardrops used to rehearse when they were dead famous and heard loads of great stories about them that just frustrated us. Round the corner from The Ministry was a bar called Rudi’s and we used to drink in there a lot and shout at the bands doing ‘Alright Now’ and all that. Obnoxious we were, but we felt like we were on a mission. We kept saying ‘let us play’ and they did to shut us up. “One day a lad we had seen around came up and said ‘I can get you a record deal in 6 weeks’ and we were like ‘oh go on then’ and within 6 weeks we had a deal with Arista, home of Barry Manilow. It was like a Tommy Steele film or something.” The band released their album ‘How Green is your Valley?’ and set off on tour. “They sent us off with Hue & Cry & playing stadiums with Wet Wet Wet. It was all very weird. A tour with Squeeze was great though”. The band was dropped when Arista decided to concentrate more on dance acts. A couple of weeks later the drummer joined another signed band and that was the end of it.

Steve licked his wounds and wrote songs and played in bars and one of them asked him to run a jam night. “The thought of that appalled me so I started an open mic singer-songwriter night the Acoustic Engine “. The Coral, The Zutons, Criss TT, John Smith, Tom Hingley, The Stands and Damien Rice all played it along with hundreds of great songwriters who escaped from their bedrooms onto stages.

In 2001 he put out his solo album ‘It Just Is’ on the Viper Label. The album, nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, was a mostly biographical collection of songs written during a turbulent couple of years during which Steve’s oldest friend was murdered and a member of his family was imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. Steve also got married and became a dad. Martyn Campbell of Lightning Seeds (now Richard Ashcroft & Shack) co-produced it. Mike Badger and Paul Hemmings ex the La’s played on it, as did Howie Payne from The Stands. “I then got lucky with some great gigs with the likes of Ron Sexsmith, Ian McNabb, Glen Tilbrook and Martin Stephenson. as well as my own tours. I got a number radio sessions and airplay, so I had fun going around on my own with just my guitar and spare undies.” He also ended up on Ricky Tomlinson’s album.”I played guitar on it and dueted with him on ‘Half The World Away!’” The fruits of this union can be heard, if you dare, on Ricky’s ‘Music My Arse’. “We did Parkinson and Noddy Holder was also in the band. I watched the show in a pub in the Highlands were I played a couple of days later. We stopped the gig halfway through and put the telly on. How odd.”

Steve’s latest album & ‘Shake It, Make It & Don’t Fake It’ is another largely acoustic based offering but rootsier and more melodic, combining samples, banjos, fiddles and 12 string guitars, but still recognisably classic Mersey-pop. Martyn Campbell, who co-produced ‘It Just Is’, is again present offering his melodic bass lines and vocals. Martyn also plays in Steve’s live band The Bank of England. Further assistance is given by Dan Dean guitarist with ex Probe Plus favourites The Onset, Robbie Taylor from bright new Liverpool band The Great North-western Hoboes and Brian Chin who co-wrote a number of songs on It Just Is.