Truly a jack of all trades, Steve Hensby’s eclectic, two-disk self-titled album Steve Hensby is jam packed with loads of genres and emotions, I’m not entirely sure where to begin. Hensby described this album by saying, “It’s a gypsy circus.” I’ll say this, it achieves the dizzying effect of the circus considering there are so many flavors to pick from. He touches on everything from traditional folk music, drinking songs, French pop, jazz, indie rock and even a hint of punk. I had a lot to listen to and a lot to talk about.
The first four tracks of disk didn't do much for me, in all honesty they sounded like something you could hear at your local renaissance fair or outdoor festival. There is a sense of humor to them but they just sound so hokey I really can’t think of an occasion where I would want to listen to them which comes down to personal taste.
However, track five, “Overtime” was a complete turnaround with a cool jazzy feel and piano playing that was just plain lovely. Same thing with “This Old Town” which had a French pop essence to it. I don’t know what these two tracks had to do with the first four but I was now intrigued. Another fun insert in disk one was “Advert” which is a hilarious, raunchy advertisement for a fish and chips joint. It’s great, but I don’t understand it’s placement in this album. To be honest I really want to hear the punk rock album that I feel would be attached to that advertisement.
Disk two had a similar mixture of his gypsy circus and jazz stuff. The one thing that stood out was the cool acoustic cover of “If I Only Had a Brain.” It was eerie and had a melancholy quality to it that I could appreciate. As for the rest of this disk, once again I wasn't as smitten with the circus stuff. The jazzier stuff even got a bit sleepy for me.
The audio craft was not entirely flattering, and that could be on purpose to play up the humor bits. However, on the jazz end it just fell short for me, I think if it sounded a bit more intimate instead of open and airy, I might have appreciated it more. Hensby’s vocals are interesting; he’s on the higher end of the scale. His voice works fine enough for the humorous hokey stuff. I don’t know that his voice is really suited to jazz. I would love to hear him in a punk or indie rock setting, I think he could really make an impression in either of those realms.
You can get a glimmer of indie rock with “Stagefright” and his voice really clicks with that track. He excels with blunt yet light, playful delivery.
Overall Hensby clearly likes to play the field when it comes to genres which I can respect. I would recommend breaking it up. I felt like I had two completely different albums on my hands. I would be very interested to hear more work from him that was less for kicks and more for listening.
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