Santa Cruz, California-based acoustic indie artist Stephen Foster presents us a delightful at times rustic, and at times evocative debut album with his Sharing Perils. Foster who began his musical journey in grade four by picking up the trumpet, paints a canvass of nocturnal plains with his acoustic guitars and musical vision. The album has been written over a span of about two years by Stephen Foster. With recording and production by Henry Chadwick, this indie-pop acoustic work creates a world set in a spaghetti western ethos with romantic sobering up and ruminations on the nature of life.
We literally chime into the album with the track Chime which leads us into the first full song Después de la Inundación. Después de la Inundación, which in Spanish means after the flood, is an instrumental track with a western refrain with trumpets, guitars, and an epic vibe to it. With the third track George Bailey’s Honeymoon, we get to hear Foster’s vocals. The song is a reflective ode to things lost or at the edge of going away and accepting them with grace. This track is a rock-pop track with straight drums and a mostly acoustic rhythm harmonic section and vocal harmonies. A ballad to listen to while pondering about life on a scenic night.
The Passing Shadow slacks down the pace from the previous song being a full-fledged finger-picked acoustic track to Foster’s nurturing voice. The song ends with some beautiful vocal harmonies in an outro with an almost lullaby-like effect, ending with some chromatic chord changes. Lyrically, we explore attempts to achieve, make peace with the pace of change, and rise up to another day. We Finally Rest is a contemplative acoustic ballad that is somber musical expression at its tender most. Sadie’s Gift starts as an acoustic instrumental with lyric-less vocal melodies appended with harmonies used to create mellow anticipation. In The Sea begins with some synths which soon give way to sober acoustic passages. Foster sings about dejection and hard conclusions after much work.
From the bleak mood, we hear a more upbeat but still contemplative pop-rock song with Desolate Cities. Here we get electric guitar leads as well as great drumming by Henry. The track Olam has sitars played by Stephen with Chadwick on bass and drums combining eastern instruments with an American western vibe. Olam is Hebrew for beyond the horizon and the song gives that feel. Olam is also used for the distant past or the distant future, as a time that is difficult or impossible to know or perceive. The Light is a reflective acoustic ballad that creates a great theatricality to it. We hear some claves and other percussion by Foster on this song and the e-bow as well by Henry. The hypnotic vocals by Foster elevate the track. Anyone, Anymore includes synths while Foster sings on about waking up in a coma town while Slumbertime Waltz has us returning to stripped-down arrangements. The album concludes as it began with Chimes by Stephen Foster.
Foster displays his evocative songwriting with earnest expression in the second person. We hear a range of musical instruments on this record played by Foster and Chadwick including the chimes, vibraslap, trumpet, and tambourine. We get to hear the glockenspiel on Sadie’s Gift and sitars on Olam. The album is wonderfully produced by Henry Chadwick who takes us bass, drum, synth, and other instrumentalist duties as well. Cian Riordan’s mastering ensures we have a consistent audio experience in the album. Sharing Perils is a deeply emotional and well-composed journey into the reflective aspects of our lives.
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