AOTW: Adam Haworth Stephens


Adam Haworth Stephens is a hard working singer songwriter. He is an ambitious West Coast native who is on the move and looks like a cross between Kurt Cobain and Beck, but sounds nothing like either. Stephens is best know for his part in the San Francisco bluesy-folk duo Two Gallants but has spread his wings and struck out on his own (at least for the time being).
After much touring and a barrage of recorded material (4 albums in all), Stephens took a break in 2007 to brainstorm ideas for his first solo endeavor. After the critical success of his band’s last two albums; The Scenery of Farewell and the self-titled Two Gallants, there arose a fair amount of anticipatory expectation surrounding his new solo work. Luckily for him his first solo album, We Live on Cliffs proves to be an impressive output in its own right, though of a somewhat different breed. 

We Live on Cliffs was released this past September by indie darling Saddle Creek Records. Recorded at Sunset Sound and Kingsize studios in Los Angeles the album features a slightly more subdued Stephens on vocals, guitar and piano. It also boasts a long list of impressive guest musicians including Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket and Cody Votolato of Blood Brothers. The whole scene is illuminated no doubt by the presence of producer Joe Chiccarelli, who is responsible for the likes of The White Stripes and The Shins, amongst others.

The track “Elderwoods” offers up an interesting mix of forms, seeming to cross between two ideas. Slow and melodic hooks ascend into hard, alt-pop eruptions revealing an unconventional complexity for pop music. This guy is apparently not afraid to allow one song to set off several different emotional charges. A choice that portrays Stephens with a deep confidence in himself, his appearance of weather-worn humility aside. And just as important, one gets the impression that the singer trusts his audiences’ intellect enough to not dumb down his music and lyrics, or stifle his detail-driven creativity. A disposition his fans will be sure to appreciate.

Quite possibly the best song on the album, “The Cities That We’ve Burned” begins on a dour note reminiscent of Gary Jules’ maddeningly sadly beautiful “Mad World”, but soon takes an upward turn into not exactly brightness but at least some kind of self- contented state of social critique.  Here Stephens sounds very much like Connor Oberst in his Mystic Valley Band days. While Stephens first solo attempt is not exactly catchy, it provides something else for listeners in its patiently metered folk ballads reflecting largely unspoken undercurrents of the minutiae of American culture.

In early October Stephens and his new outfit (members include Jen Grady, Matt Montgomery, and Omar Cuellar) embarked on a seven-week tour of the South and Midwest that will be wrapping up in late November. Folk/country partners in crime The Felice Brothers will be accompanying them on all dates.

Adams Haworth Stephens

November 8 – The Social –  Orlando, FL
November 9 –  Florida State University –  Tallahassee, FL
November 10 –  One Eyed Jacks –  New Orleans, LA
November 12 –  Emo’s –  Austin, TX

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– Amanda Decker


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