Steve Katz: Barricades

Steve Katz:  Barricades

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Steve Katz, BarricadesIt’s been a rough summer.  I won’t bore you with the details, but there’s been mornings that instead of my feet hitting the floor with eager anticipation for all I have to accomplish, there’s been an annoyed eye roll to the heavens, the blanket pulled over my head, and a heavy sigh knowing I have to get up anyway.  Life challenges that we all have.  Steve Katz refers to them as Barricades.  Whether they’re emotional or physical, seen or unseen, they shape us into the people we are.  Sometimes, more than just detours are made; art blossoms in the journey.

Of this five song introduction to Steve’s music, the first song “Thrive” is the most radio ready, pop driven.  I’m still in Olympics mode, so the image of the gymnasts sticking a perfect dismount is still lodged in my head; that’s the way this song makes me feel.  Not only does Steve completely nail this song, but I feel like anything is possible whenever I listen to it.  The vocals are rich, reminding me a little of the band Live’s former lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk; powerful pipes that never get lost under layers of guitars and never wavers, even when delivering emotion.  In fact, that’s when his voice is at it’s best.  And the way this song was written, about looking in the mirror and not liking the reflection, but realizing, slowly, that there is a purpose to be fulfilled…

“Today I Saw Hope” is straight forward, but it’s one that couldn’t possibly get enough attention.  In the midst of darkness, there is always a light, and that focus on it rather than on surrounding turmoil is a perspective that isn’t traveled enough. The underlying harmonies make this song even more lovely.  I love the fact that the gentleness of this song still makes a powerful punch.  It’s a song that stays with you; after hearing it once, all you have to do is look at the kindness lighting the corners, and you’ll hear this song in your head.

“Fair” returns a pop flavor, the driving pulse of the guitars giving this song momentum, and Steve’s vocals offering a bite to the pain he’s revealing, while the tongue in cheek lyrics made me smile.  “Play as if you couldn’t care/I’ll play, too, and make it fair.”  The final track, “A Modern Tale” is a reflective look back at a love that went astray.

Oddly enough, it was “Barricades,” the album’s title that starts off really well, but it left me unsure, and I had to struggle with falling in love with the song and it’s meaning.  “I will succeed/Where others have fallen.”  The song takes a turn, though, and instead of rejoicing in the lessons learned and the strength gained, Steve questions “Should I pray to the same God/The same one that condemned me/To this hell.”  It’s the last of the lyrics, the song subsides with guitars that carry the question for over a minute until the song evaporates, leaving the listener pondering.  At first, I was slightly annoyed that he even begs the question, especially after the beauty of “Today I Saw Hope.”  But the more I thought about it, I appreciated that even I question why sometimes, wanting to point fingers.   The best part of this song is indeed the fact that the question dangles, the guitars carrying it away, but listeners still deal with the residue.  Some will chose to accept that God isn’t some schemer, wanting us to suffer.  Others will continue to blame.  Only one solution will lead to faith and maturity.

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