Reviewed by Tom Lennie
We're accustomed to this fine Scottish singer/songwriter sharing his soul in song. On his striking debut album 'Light In The Darkest Of Nights', he openly exposed the brokenness and humiliation of months spent as a homeless man on Edinburgh's cold streets. 'Gold', his third studio album, sees the Scottish singer tackle another deeply emotive issue, the stigma of mental health recovery. This gathering of 10 home-grown tunes was inspired by Steph's own journey of restoration. Lyrically, it reveals him as a psalmist in the true biblical sense. Songs penned from a place of darkness, vulnerability and despair; Steph cries out to God for mercy. We see him revel in the grace lavished upon him, leading in turn to an outpouring of gratitude and praise. While naturally steeped in the blues, Steph effortlessly treads well outside such musical comfort zones and as with his previous CD, 'Kingdom Come', shows remarkable competence in a range of styles; from acoustic folk to electronica; from swinging gospel to Americana. Previously unrecorded, "Grace" is one of Steph's older tunes, resurrected here to feature some rap intervention from Scottish rapper, MPFree. "Old John Barleycorn" comes, ala Rend Collective, in upbeat folk-rock form and calls for a strong stance against the wiles of the Enemy. Typically Steph, several tracks begin gently, rising in intensity as they progress - such is true of the title-track, a stripped-down beauty. Meanwhile, the pounding "Soul Searching" reveals Steph at his meanest and rockiest, with blistering, guitar-drenched chorus. And then there's the heart-warming, "Love Changes Everything", which ably brings out Steph's soulful voice and an irresistible gospel chorus; and the folksy "Ever Golden", with its undulating, delectable melody. Steph oozes songwriting ability and gutsy, raw vocal prowess. This, combined with uncommon musical diversity and depth of emotion makes for one impressive recording. It's an inevitable pun, but this album truly is pure gold.
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