|Dimensions||22 × 16 × 1 cm|
Steve Case & The Common Trees
Steve Case is one singer songwriter who has no idea where he fits in, but is having all sorts of fun trying to find out! A self-confessed “musical mongrel”, Case has played blues festivals only to be told he’s not blues and entered country competitions only to be told he’s not country enough.Needless to say, the folk community have embraced him with open arms even though they jest that he isn’t really all that folkie.
In an ironic twist, it took a move to the city for Case to discover a love of country music and to re-connect with his country roots. “I had spent all my life in Wagga Wagga and thought I’d never leave,” Case says.“But one day I made the decision that I needed to find out if there was more to life and packed my bags and headed north to Brisbane.” Moving to the sunshine state over 12 months ago, Case assembled backing band “The Common Trees” and together they have recorded the “Leaving Home” Ep.
Leaving Home Ep
Recorded at fellow Neil Young tragic Martin MacDonald’s home studio in Brisbane, The “Leaving Home” Ep is all about home: wanting to leave, wanting to stay, the good times and bad. The record, while not exactly a concept album, does have an underlying narrative that connects the songs. “When I sat down to decide which songs to record, I soon realised the best songs all had the theme of “home” at their core,” Case says. “The sessions were really relaxed and laid back. “Everyone who played on the record brought their own vision of the songs and imparted some of their own character in the sounds which is what I found most enjoyable about the whole process. “The studio was so DIY and humble and the process so natural which really suited the vibe I was trying to create for the record. “We’d often have to stop recording and wait for storms to pass over before resuming work. “At one stage we had to call off recording all together as the crickets and cicadas just wouldn’t shut up!”. “If I was ever in any doubt as to whether it was the right move to leave home or not, listening back to the cd and thinking about the songs that were inspired by this change in my life, I’m pretty happy with the final results.”
Track 1: Four Walls
This is a song about the claustrophobia and feelings of helplessness associated with small town living and the yearning to get out. I knew people who were just content to watch life pass them by (“All my friends are killing time”) and for a long time I was caught in that trap. Many of the people I associated with were very quick to cut you down or get jealous if you dared to aspire to be something more. At times it was very dangerous to be different. (Category: Folk. APRA Id: GW40793994)
Track 2: Hell or High Water
This is my “enough is enough” song which is when I decided that change was not gonna come to me – I’d have to make it happen. It is a song about the things that were pushing me away as well as the things that were holding me back. The first verse is about the relationships I’d spent all my life building but had outgrown. The second verse is about the good memories of growing up, with specific reference to the times as a kid spent on my Pop’s farm and how such attachments are hard to walk away from. But in the end I decided to “Get on that plane”. PS. The “awful place” mentioned in the lyrics is a mental state, not a reference to Wagga Wagga which is a great place to live. (Category: Country. APRA Id: GW40793995)
Track 3: Leaving Home
This is the most literal song I have ever written and funnily enough just details my leaving home and the first few months away including my first birthday spent without my family and friends. I bought my Pop’s old car to make the journey and I’d like to think he was up there watching over me and making sure I made it safe and sound. The car only has AM radio which provided an appropriate soundtrack as I passed through the various country towns on my way north. (Category: Easy Listening. APRA Id: GW40793994)
Track 4: Home Town (Lead Single)
Wagga! Yeah! Wagga Wagga! This song is all about missing my home town, the place “so good they named it twice”. This was the first song I wrote after moving away. I was (and still am) conflicted about enjoying what the city has to offer whilst pining for the comfort and familiarity of the place where I grew up. It’s kinda summed up in the lines “Sometimes I wish there were two of me – one living here in the city and one in the country”. There is a video for the song on my YouTube channel which features pictures of Wagga kindly submitted by my friends and family who are on my mailing list. (Category: Country/Pop. APRA Id: 40794000)
Track 5: The Runner
This song was written in my head as I drove down to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. As I crossed the Qld/NSW border and was back in NSW again I started to think “What if I just kept driving? I could be back home in Wagga by nightfall”. It got me thinking about how in my life, if anything gets too tough I always turn and run rather than face up to it. It helped me realise there is only so much running you can do and that eventually you have to grow up and not run from the challenges life throws your way. (Category: Country. APRA Id: 40793997)
Track 6: Ballad of Joe
This is the first song I’ve written that has attempted to tell the story of someone I know. It is about my cousin Joe who, unlike me, had a very disrupted upbringing, never being allowed to settle or feel the security of growing up in a stable and loving household. I never knew him all that well but I could just picture him at night wandering around and thinking if nobody loves me “where is home?”. (Category: Folk/Country: 40793998)
CD review by Chris Spencer
This isn’t folk – this is pure unadulterated pop! Ah but what melodies! What harmonies!
Other reviewers have called his genre, folkcountry pop; others mention blues, but I didn’t find much of this influence on this recording.
From the delicate opening of Four Walls, Case impresses with his pop sensibility and his strong songwriting. He is supported by musicians who are understated, a producer who is sympathetic to the cause and who provides a delicious mix of instruments.
Hell or High Water is a highlight with its country tinges, provided by the pedal steel playing of Joe Cryle.
In contrast, the title track, isn’t as strong, but is lifted by the backing vocals of Sarah Collyer and a thudding drum pattern that is a credit to the producer, Martin MacDonald.
At times I am reminded of the vocals of someone like James Taylor, particularly on Home Town in which the song begins with just Steve singing unaccompanied, and gradually he is joined by backing instruments – the too short electric guitar solo by James Speet is exquisite.
The Runner ironically slows down the tempo a bit and again we have the pedal steel, moaning and whining underneath. I found myself humming along to a couple of these songs, an indication that Case can write a catchy melody. Finally, the last song, Ballad of Joe is another gem.
Lyrically, Case has avoided the usual love songs, and has written about leaving home, reminiscing on his origins and his place in the world. Case is originally from Wagga Wagga, but now resides in Brisbane, where this ep was recorded. I look forward to a full length album.
CD Review by Steve Tyson
I have to admit to a bias upfront here. I am a big fan of Steve Case’s music. I played a few shows with Steve in Brisbane over the past couple of years, and got to hear his material first hand. Suffice to say I was mightily impressed.
Steve originally hails from Wagga Wagga, but left there to move to Brisbane a couple of years ago, serious about getting his music to a bigger audience. His development as a songwriter and performer in that period of time has been quite amazing. I guess being away from home provides plenty of fuel for new songs, so it is no surprise that this minialbum “Leaving Home” has that as the underlying theme throughout its six tracks.
Some of the songs speak in a straightforward manner about the place Steve left behind, such as “Home Town”, with a line making reference to the sign at the entrance to Wagga Wagga that tells you the place is so good they named it twice. You can almost feel the pain in Steve’s voice as he sings about being away from family and friends.
“Four Walls” deals with the exactly the opposite emotion, the feeling of being hemmed in, living in a country town.
“The Runner” reflects on an unsettled life, moving from place to place, whilst the “Ballad of Joe” tells the story of a young kid essentially abandoned by his family, a kid “always on the wrong side of right”.
The title track is sort of self-explanatory, but is a real highpoint of the record. It might seem that these are all pretty simple themes that have been dealt with a million times before by countless songwriters, but these songs cut through, they tug at your heart, and never for a moment do you feel as if you’ve heard it all before. A large part of the reason for that is Steve’s voice and delivery.
Musically, the material sits somewhere between “Harvest”- era Neil Young, “Massachusetts”-era Bee Gees, and Whiskeytown-era Ryan Adams. When I hear Steve’s voice, I hear Cat Stevens, or Barry Gibb (before he got tight pants). But there is passion and earnestness in bucketloads.
Steve recorded the album with the help of the Common Trees, a couple of guys who played regularly with him live, plus a couple of serious studio ring-ins. James Speet plays some tasty, understated electric guitar throughout, and David Law’s piano is the key to “Four Walls” in particular. Laurie Keating plays drums, and on bass, Steve was able to secure the services of Brisbane folk legend Mark Cryle. I’ll bet Mark was a hell of a sounding board in the studio. Mark’s son Joe contributes on pedal steel.
One of the main features of the record is the vocal contribution of Sarah Collyer, herself a wonderful songwriter predominantly in the jazz vein. Sarah’s combination with Steve is truly special, reminding me of the Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris collaborations all those years ago.
If there is to be a criticism it is simply this – the record is too short at just 6 tracks…. but what is it they say about always leaving your audiences wanting more?
Steve has recently left Brisbane and has set off on a year-long journey around Australia. He will be popping up at festivals, playing blackboard shows whenever possible. So he is certainly taking the notion of “Leaving Home” to the nth degree. You can help him out by
buying this fine mini-album through the Trad & Now shop for only $12. Believe me, it will be money well spent.
4 in stock (can be backordered)