I asked a handful of my favorite Indianapolis musicians to review my debut album, "Let's Begin." Here's Aaron Nicely of The Stampede String Band's take. I'm a big fan of their modern bluegrass sound and really appreciate how Aaron took the time to notice the great work of producer Jon Class and the other session musicians!
The truth is, I’d never heard Steve Boller’s music. Local music-matchmaker Ben Cannon put him in a thread about reviewing another album, and I started to look him up. I saw a lot of keyboards, a lot of guitars, and the beginnings of what looked like a highly ambitious project. I kept an eye on the work as Steve moved through 24 demo tracks before settling on the dozen that are on his debut album, Let’s Begin. Watching those early demo videos, I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. Pop, certainly, some singer/songwriter, and a whole lot of what else I couldn’t be sure.
I’ve had Let’s Begin on repeat for a few weeks now, and here’s what I think: this is damn good album. It’s not anything I would have gravitated towards in the last five years, but there’s so much on here that reminds me of so many musical styles that I love. You can hear anything from barbershop quartet fused with gospel choir to straight up Michael Jackson (and therefore, Toto!), and it’s a never ending run through all these vocal layers and horn sections and three hundred twenty seven different sounding keyboards that you’ll never run out of surprises here.
Boller’s musical pallet here is massive, in part I think due to the production assistance he beams about in the making of promo video going around. Jon Class of Varsity Recording Company in Anderson. An album like this is not an accident. To have so much going on, for it to be so tight, the sound both so wide and deep, takes planning and vision. The two made a fantastic pair, bringing in all the right noise at the right time, and leaving it quite when it needs it. One of my favorite additions Class adds is his own playing. You’ll hear him on the organ that weaves in and out of most of the tracks on “Let’s Begin”, adding depth to an already spacious mix.
The opening a ‘Capella track “Capsize” must have more than 50 overlaid voices making the argument that one must “love your self, it’s all you have to do.” The radio ready “Never A Mistake” takes a pop approach, dropping the pretense in the verses and piling on the power in the unforgettable chorus. Seriously, you’ll be annoying your co-workers for weeks with your inadequate falsetto (I don’t know if Boller’s going falsetto there or not… if not, that’s some range, folks) trying to come anywhere near Boller’s, singing, “It was never a miiiiiiistaaaaake! Every heartbreak.”
The songwriting never lets you down lyrically. It’s advice, it’s love, it’s storytelling, all rolled up in this instantly enjoyable album. If there’s any issue one might take, it’s that it goes too far (how can that be a bad thing?) reaching to so many styles from the last thirty or forty years of pop music. The stretch from “Capsize” to the Michael Jackson-esque “Take What You Need” is a long one, but swings back as he wraps up the album with the groovy, warbly organ-drenched “Let Myself Begin”. At times, it almost felt like a movie soundtrack. I’ve always loved buying movie soundtracks because you get the song from the band or two you might be in to, and you can get introduced to a dozen more bands you’d never have heard of. On “Let’s Begin,” you get a dozen bands you’ve never heard before but you’re going to love.
Have a look at the Stampede String Band website and Facebook page.
...And if you're excited about the album, go grab tickets to the album release show, June 30th at The Hi-Fi! VIP tickets are running out: