Steve Marriner — Hope Dies Last
Ottawa-based bluesman Steve Marriner, like so many of us over the past year, used the lockdown to learn a new skill – record production. While Marriner is no stranger to the studio, he’s finally taken the knowledge absorbed from years of session work to create his own project. Of all the quarantine self-produced albums in the past 15 months, this one is a step above in terms of all-around quality. The songs are well written, the production is clean, and the performances have gusto. Marriner asks “can you hear my heart,” and the answer is a resounding yes.
Hope Dies Last hits the listener like an oncoming cadillac. Right from the first notes of “Take Me to the City,” you know you’re in for an album that deserves to be played at full volume. The album certainly will satisfy any blues aficionado, but the energy behind it makes it accessible to wider audiences. If you’re not a blues rock fan, this record might well change that.
Marriner’s style encompases a wide range, stretching from the instrumental interlude “Uptown Lockdown” to the steel guitar-fueled country hues of “Enough.” A high point on the record comes with Marriner’s composition “Petite Danse,” written and performed in French. The song has such a swampy sound that I thought Marriner must be Cajun, not Canadian. “Honey Bee” is well executed, but doesn’t stray far from the original. That’s not to say it doesn’t belong – it fits snug in this album. Every song on here has earned its place.
While the album opener “Take Me to the City” glorifies excess, the closing ballad “Long Way Down” serves as a counterpoint. Following characters struggling with different forms of addiction, the song rejects the thesis of “Take Me to the City” and depicts the harsh lives of addicts who know they should stop but can’t. It’s a pretty brilliant turnaround from the intro. Americana fans will enjoy “Long Way Down” for its acoustic storytelling approach.