Steve Poltz – Stardust & Satellites (Red House Records/Compass Records)
On Stardust & Satellites, Steve Poltz’s 14th (14th!!!) solo album, it takes just one song to remind you why he is still one of the wittiest song writers in the folk/Americana world right now. On “Wrong Town,” Poltz introduces himself to his audience explaining he’s not the man he used to be, his style icon is “Emmylou Harris mixed with a little Don Was” and that he’s “old fashioned but he’s woke,” but mostly he’s just there to sing; all delivered over sublime acoustic guitar picking. It’s an irresistible song from an irresistible songwriter and the perfect opening salvo.
Produced by Oliver Wood and Jano Rix of The Wood Brothers, it’s his second album in two years and thankfully keeps the same template that’s worked so well for the bulk of his career, wry, witty songs that are relatable to just about everyone.
On “Conveyor Belt,” one of the strongest tracks on the album, he sings beautifully and earnestly about death. “My mom passed away, and then a year later my dad crossed over,” says Poltz. “I started thinking that I was next on the conveyor belt in a factory on the wheel of time. Next thing I know I grabbed my guitar and this song appeared to me like a gift. It didn’t exist and then voila, there it was. It’s all a mystery to me. I’m lucky to be a conduit.”
The songs – despite being deeply personal – manage to be filled with emotions that just about everyone can relate to and go down easy with Poltz’s subtle humor. Song after song on Stardust & Satellites carry the same hallmarks. There are one or two weaker tracks on the record, like the laid back, musically experimental but lyrically meh “It’s Baseball Season,” which just sounds flimsy compared to most of the other songs here. “Up With People,” the very next track, however, pulls the listener back into Poltz’s charmingly frank world (“Back in high school I loved you, but I didn’t have the courage to tell you/ ‘Cause I was high on quaaludes and listening to Foreigner”).
The record closes on the title track, a sweet but heartbreaking song about lost love and trying to move on. The song serves as a brilliant bookend to the album opener “Wrong Town,” showing Poltz’s deft knack of balancing humor with heartache.
Find Steve Poltz music and info here: https://poltz.com