Music, Print, Reviews August 6, 2020

Album Review: Charlie Stevens – Charlie Stevens

by Cole Peterson

Charlie Stevens by Charlie Stevens is the first official album release from Northern Colorado’s young bluegrass extraordinaire of the same name. The first to ever graduate from the University of Northern Colorado’s world renowned music program with a degree in bluegrass, Stevens possesses dual credentials in classical and bluegrass guitar.

The album is what any bluegrass fan could ask for, featuring traditional elements of stringed instrumentals and folksy storytelling. “Success,” the album’s well received single, begins with an upbeat bluegrass bob. Lyrically, it ticks all the boxes with an overarching theme of denying gross materialism to realize what’s truly important in life, all while remaining lighthearted. 

Live Free or Die” pushes things forward with a slightly faster tempo, and stronger vocal emphasis. “England’s Hornpipe – Charlie’s Rant” showcases Stevens’ classical guitar chops with a long, solo guitar interlude effortlessly weaving between classical picking and small doses of modern accentuation.

“Bad Luck” and “Indigo Astroturf” bring the listener back to the bluegrass party before being whisked away by the album’s keystone track, “The Waltz For Nobody.” An instrumental waltz in the traditional sense, it showcases Stevens’ ability to musically execute on a grander scale than strictly bluegrass. The simple guitar arrangement evokes the sentimental imagery of a couple of many years swaying and falling in love for the second time.

“The Cat’s Meow” could be argued as the “bee’s knees” of the record, with a deeper prevalence of pulsing violin. The track’s feel tugs at the listener’s heartstrings before it departs with almost psychedelic use of vocal layering.

If you haven’t already heard Charlie Stevens (the artist) at a show around Colorado, know this: Charlie Stevens (the album) is a cohesive first release from an up and coming bluegrass artist, and is a great place to begin to appreciate his Coloradan combination of technical perfection and budding style.