Reviewed by Tom Lennie
Edinburgh-based Steph(en) Macleod has a truly dramatic testimony to share; from being homeless, penniless and living on the streets just a few years ago to being happily married with family, settled in a lovely home, and with a hope and faith rooted firmly on the rock of Jesus Christ. What's more, Steph is beginning to bring to reality the innate gifting within him to write and perform some truly original, ear-catching music. Hence the production of this collection of twelve self-penned songs. And what an outstanding output it is! With his totally original rootsy vocals, Macleod has come up with a batch of attention-grabbing tunes in such an eclectic range of styles that any easy classification is rendered futile. While acoustic folk, country, soul and rock all make their presence felt, a bluesy feel underpins the entire set. This style is at its purest on "Snake Eyes", an edgy sound warning of the deadly lures of the evil one. Deft fiddle skills - in a range of moods - are to be heard throughout the disc, while Hammond organ, tasty brass and the fine voices of the Exile choir also crop up where required. Literally every track could be singled out for attention. Yet the opening "Hope Shines On" particularly demands mention, not least for the quirky vocal sounds and increased intensity brought on it mid-way through. While an attitude of worship attends "For Your Glory", the only congregationally-suited tune is the simply infectious "Hallelujah", originally written for a friend's wedding. "Saved" is a short acoustic piece, giving simple testimony to Christ's saving powers. All these songs are refreshingly free of clichés, perhaps because Steph is so young in the faith that he hasn't yet learnt any! Just when you feel things are about to wind down for the final track, Steph delivers a feisty 6.5 minute epic, which gears up into some potent spiritual warfare while resting on a bold declaration of truth. This is a triumph of a debut recording, with delightful twists of musical creativity at every turn. The CD was launched at Steph & co's first ever gig - complete with poignant testimony - which went down a storm before a large Edinburgh audience recently. Judging from that reception, it's apparent this musician should soon be attracting more widespread recognition.
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