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MP3 Stephen Simmons - Last Call

Literate, Country-Folk-Roots-Rock songs that have much in common with Americana and https://www.tradebit.comntry, while having broad influences, from the Small Faces to Gordon Lightfoot.

16 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Americana, ROCK: Roots Rock

Stephen Simmons was raised in the small town of Woodbury, Tennessee. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father held a factory job (In his family, they were the first generation that didn''t work the farm). Humble and soft-spoken, Stephen at first seems to exemplify this rural, Church of Christ upbringing. As a songwriter, however, his vision is much more complex. The songs on his new recording, Last Call, tell stories of country life''s dark side and serve to remind listeners how it feels to stand at the intersection of piety and sin.

"When you''re raised in the Church of Christ, if you''re sensitive at all, it leaves you with a lot to struggle with," says Stephen, who now lives in Nashville. "You grow up to see that there are gaps and holes in what you''ve been taught; there are questions where there are not supposed to be questions. On the one hand, I was exposed to small community religious life, but on the other, I was exposed to my wild-ass relatives. This record is an attempt to get all those contradictions out."

It would be a mistake to categorize Last Call as strictly alt.-country or Americana. Though it has a lot in common with those genres, the record has a wide variety of influences, from the Small Faces to Gordon Lightfoot. At its essence, Last Call represents both sides of a struggle--the tension between last call for alcohol and last call for your soul. Take, for example, the words of the conflicted drunk in the album''s title track: "Last call for all you sinners/ I thought I heard the bartender say/ And I took it kinda'' hard/ Though I''m sure he didn''t mean it that way." And there''s the desperate lawman of "Bow Down," whose life on-the-take has deadly consequences: "I took the money that I made from the farm/ Got a little place and a brand new job/ With a county patrol car/ But word sure does get out fast when someone can be had/ And say what you wanna'' say but there''s a price for every man . . ..Pray Jesus ain''t around, man/ To see me bow down"

Stephen understands the conflict between rural simplicity and the opportunities and temptations represented by the city; this tension runs throughout Last Call''s sixteen tracks. Songs such as "County Lines," a straight-up country rocker, describe the gravitational pull of rural areas such as Cannon County, TN, where Stephen was born and raised: "County Lines/ Run in funny ways/ But once they draw ''em up/ They don''t ever change/ They say you can''t go back/ So don''t even try/ Take one more step/ And kiss your County goodbye.

Last Call, which was recorded in Nashville by producer/engineer Eric Fritsch (Scott Miller, Carter Little, Rowland Stebbins), is the follow-up to Simmons'' self-released acoustic debut, Stephen Simmons Live: Five Song Sampler, which was much praised by Nashville''s music critics. The Nashville Scene''s Bill Friskics-Warren, for example, says Simmons is "a singer-songwriter of marked depth and commitment, (he) recalls a more subdued Steve Earle, a more grounded Ryan Adams and any aggregation of three-named Texas troubadours you''d care to recall." Last Call features performances by some of Nashville''s most in-demand players, including guitarist Kenny Vaughn, bassist Dave Jacques, drummer Paul Griffith and cellist David Henry.

"At times I feel like I''m being deadly serious, but at the same time being tongue in cheek," says Stephen, who admits that Last Call is mostly about "lying, cheating and drinking." That said, his vision of life in Tennessee''s less populated regions is not nearly as dark as it might seem. "This is not so much a record about saints, as it is one about sinners," he says. "But I truly believe that there''s salvation out there for everyone. In that sense, I guess it''s really a record about all of us."

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