Laura Stevenson - Wheel
Don Giovanni, 2013
Hearing an artist make their first truly cohesive album is so wonderful. Where Laura Stevenson’s sophomore LP Sit Resist showed that she is a gifted at writing songs and melodies, the album’s inconsistency in style made it feel a little half done. But the melodies are so great I listened to that album a ton. Stevenson’s third album Wheel isn’t perfect, but it is easily going to crack my top 10 at the end of the year. And the fact that it’s not perfect is pretty much a compliment, because that’s what makes Laura Stevenson worth listening to. She could have gone and smoothed off all the rough edges and idiosyncrasies that make her so special and aimed for a more Standard Female Alt-Folk Singer approach (for some reason I am thinking she could be a Kathleen Edwards type and though I don’t want to know Ms. Edwards because I think she’s a fine singer/songwriter, Stevenson’s got the rootsy fiddles lurking all around this album and she’s got the pipes to pull off straight-forward alt-country chanteuse for sure) and make something that was totally boring. This sounds like an album that was demanding to be made. One where Stevenson had to exhaust herself playing catch-up with, and as a result it’s got this vital thread that runs through it and almost breaks your heart. It’s got sad songs that sound like sad songs and sad songs that sound like happy songs. It’s got heart. So much heart. It’s not a masterpiece, but it totally shows me that Stevenson has a masterpiece inside of her that is going to unfurl on album four or five. It’s just so obvious. Wheel sounds like swinging for the fences. It doesn’t matter if there’s contact—which there is plenty of, by the way—it’s the effort. She’s got those intangibles all sorts of analysts talk about when they’re judging rookie quarterbacks. Sometimes you can just tell when someone is great, or going to be great, or in the middle of becoming great, and I think Stevenson is that last one. Truly realizing what she is capable of an artist, a singer, a songwriter and a musician. It’s great.