Let it Go Reviews:
Let It Go
Mott Street Records
It's been a while since Mr Alvarado and I crossed path. In fact, it was way back in 2005 when I got more than a wee bit excited about his "The Howl Sessions" release. I drooled rather unbecomingly over that one.
This record sees him creating his "record about heartbreak", which is always fertile ground for a singer / songwriter. Of course, it can also get self-indulgent and narcissistic but that's, thankfully, not the case here.
There are some really delightful tunes here with 'Nobody Knows' bringing back some very unhappy memories. Git. However, he does get a bit more chipper on 'New York', one of the few outward looking moments on offer. He's also put together another top-notch band for this album with Marc Ribot, Kenny Wollesen, Rob Burger and Joe Quigley having served time with the likes of T-Bone Burnett, Norah Jones. Beth Orton and Lisa Loeb, amongst others.
If you only listen to one song before making your mind up, then take a listen to 'Blue'. That should make your decision very easy indeed.
-Stuart Hamilton, Zeitgeist Music
Let It Go
Mott Street Records
On his third album, Let It Go, New York City singer-songwriter Steven Alvarado plumbs the emotional depths to come up with perhaps his most intimate, affecting offering yet. If there's one thing Alvarado seems to have learned over the years, it's the value of concision — Let It Go's ten songs take up less than half an hour. Quality trumps quantity, though, as Alvarado employs his rough-edged, emotive voice on a batch of tunes that dig way down into the dark underbelly of human emotions. The truths he comes up with aren't always pretty, but the sounds with which he frames them are consistently compelling. With a sort of post-Elvis Costello power-pop/folk-rock songwriting aesthetic, he offers indelible melodies to match every emotional sucker punch here. And while much of the album features little beyond Alvarado's own acoustic guitar and incisive singing to put the song across, when he does add other colors, he doesn't mess around: accompanists include Tom Waits' guitar genius Marc Ribot and quirky, inventive drummer-to-the-stars Kenny Wolleson.
-Jim Allen, LimeWire
The Next Big Thing blog:
STEVEN ALVARADO Let It Go
Mott Street Records
Steven Alvarado’s “Let It Go” is his fifth album. On Mott St. Records, it has a crack team of players on it and it’s quite latterday Springsteen although I’d have to say that the songs are better. Maybe it’s closer to Greg Trooper now that I think about it a little more. I don’t see this so much as Americana, it’s more electricity-fused acoustic. Not really pop but courting certain elements of that. Essentially these are stories set in very able arrangements that deserve to be heard. But where? As the planet continues to disappear up its own hind-end, there are less and less places to connect with good, honest music like this. Check it out in the confines of wherever you may be accessing this via the wonders of not-so modern technology.
-Lindsay Hutton, The Next Big Thing
Steven Alvarado CD Review
Let It Go
Mott Street Records
A new name and to some degree a new sound, ever lively and with Steven Alvardo carving out clever hooky grooves merging rock with pop he has already gained himself an audience in Europe
On hearing but a couple of songs you get to thinking, what away to go! Such is the fashion Alvardo tackles the job of making music—apart from when on a couple of the latter cuts he becomes deeply entrenched in music offering a moody feel. On showing hints of Tom Waits, Dylan, Jesse Malin among others, the one-time Nashville-based Alvarado remains solid throughout.
One of the reasons Alvardo’s music rocks so keenly lies in the use of musicians, Marc Ribot’s ever present electric guitar alongside Kenny Wollesen’s percussion, Joe Quigley’s bass and pianist Rob Burger plus Steve’s acoustic guitar and vocals. The music on Burning Bridges, incessant Gone, Gone, Gone and the smouldering It’s Alright is stripped down as he reflects, sombrely, on how he met his love when he was living back in Nashville and is of a slower tempo than initially promised.
Rather than focussing on any particular relationship or specific person, Steven has blended them all into the material written for an album best viewed as being, contemporary. No better or stronger does he lay down his work than on, New York. Most fitting it is too, seeing as both the album and, where he now resides when not on the road, both Stateside and over here in Europe.
-Maurice Hope, Maverick Magazine
Let It Go
Regular visitors will be aware of our unlimited admiration for the songs and voice of Mr. Alvarado. This latest release has been painstakingly put together in New York with some well respected musicians, whilst the whole production is minimalist, the key guys have really added just the right amounts of quality and class for Steven's production recipe and the result is ten beautifully crafted, deeply personal offerings. The attention to detail is perfection. Get This Far, It's For You, Burning Bridges and New York make up the rhythm section of this CD and as brilliant as they are, the heart wrenching and thought provoking lyrics of their 6 brothers and sisters on this production once again provide evidence—If it's required, of this guy's superb writing ability.
Once again it is a privilege to listen to this CD and one that we can offer you guys to. We have six copies to give away to the first six applicants, just email us and tell us why you need a free copy of the CD and it's yours.
There are rumors that Steven will be heading back to these shores for some live shows. Last year we caught up with him in New York at Kenny Castaways and The Porter in Bath - look out for him soon. In the meantime try this link stevenalvarado.com
-Rob Wyborn, MakingMusic.com UK
Le Cri Du Coyote Magazine (France)
Let It Go
Mott Street Records
Steven Alvarado - Let It Go
"Gruff folk blues from New York, 'Let It Go' by Steven Alvarado. Ten tracks without unnecessary detours, harsh, a bit like Escovedo. The always brilliant presence of the sublime Marc Ribot is noticeable: his sharpened guitar puts incredible colours to ”Get This Far” or ”It's Alright”. Steven's voice is beautiful without being too demonstrative, just what's needed in order to captivate."
- Le Cri Du Coyote Magazine
The Deli Magazine
STEVEN ALVARADO – Let It Go
★ ★ ★ ★ four stars
There’s an excellent book. “I’ll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transcendence,” that talks about music that tries to take the listener to a different emotional – almost spiritual – plane. Transcendence in music, the author argues, isn’t necessarily a religious experience: It might just come in the form of a particularly gifted songwriter who can take a moment and make it so universal that it transforms into a truth. Steven Alvarado’s latest effort, “Let It Go,” definitely has its moments of managing to achieve this concept. “Let It Go” managed to pull this particular reviewer in from the very first riff on the opening track “Get This Far” (not an easy task, by the way). How? It was a note-perfect homage reminiscent of Bowie’s iconic opening riff to “John, I’m Only Dancing.” Transcendence in the form of Bowie, you ask? Why not? It certainly worked on Flight of the Concords. But it’s not just Bowie that Alvarado manages to (consciously or unconsciously) channel in this album.
Alvarado’s voice is equal parts Tom Waits and Bruce Cockburn – deep gravel by the way of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” And when you manage to channel Leadbelly, you better believe you’ve achieved transcendence.
-Stephanie R. Myers, The Deli Magazine - New York City
We Heart Music Blog
STEVEN ALVARADO – Let It Go
One look at Steven Alvarado's cover artwork for Let It Go, an album that was released in April 2008 from Mott Street Records, I thought it was a tribute to Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin'Bob Dylan, but completely opposite: without a girl, presumably sadder, a little more modern, and his back to you.
One listen to the album, it definitely feels like good-time American folk rock.
I love the interaction of electric blues guitar fighting against the acoustic guitar on the brilliant opening track, "Get This Far". Even the lyrics seems to be duking it out and full of contradictions: "I'm outta gas, I got no car, I never thought I'd get this far"
Many of these songs are short, but catchy, pop-rock-oriented songs, perfect for the radio. The few exception does stick out, for instance "Nobody Knows", a slow burning depressing song. What Alvarado does best here is give such a descriptive setting:
It's Saturday night, and I'm drinking and thinking about you. _It's cold and it's raining, I'll stop complaining soon. _I cannot help myself, my heart is aching again.
Somebody throw him a lifeline, it sounds to me as if he's committing suicide here!
Fortunately, there's more happier songs makes up for that depressing one. Check out "New York", a song dedicated to Alvarado's friend and poet Aaron Smith. The song lyrics also lends itself to the title, "Let it Go".
Let It Go is out now, you can pick it up directly from CD Baby. He's planning on doing a European tour in and around September 2008, I'll be sure to mention it if I hear anything.
-We Heart Music Blog
GROOVE MAGAZINE, Sweden
REVIEW: STEVEN ALVARADO – Let It Go
He's not well-known here in Sweden yet, Steven Alvarado from New York,
but soon as you hear him, he'll stick in both mind and heart. Besides,
he's backed up by musicians who've played behind giants like Tom Waits
and Lucinda Williams.
By simple, mostly acoustic means, he causes strong, electrically charged emotions. The first song makes me think of Ryan Adams and the record dealing with his 30-year crisis, "29", also beginning with a creatively energetic blues track. Here, Marc Ribot provides some passionate playing on his electric guitar. Then, it all cools down, but both lyrics and music are uncomplicatedly direct. Thematically, it's the same old subject "moon and June", but when sung and played by Alvarado, it never becomes too sentimental but honest and real. That in it self, is a daring adventure. This good is only how the non-perfect sound.
The singing is not falsely intimidating. Instead it comes straight from within with the rise and fall of self-experienced relations as the driving force. I prefer to listen to Alvarado when there's only him and I in the room, just like talking to a close friend. We'll go through the dark side of life together and afterwards, everything feels better.
A slightly sullen, yet trustful atmosphere takes over as the record spins its final run. Few singer-songwriters make it to the very end, but Alvarado is close. He chooses his own way to go, one that may be a little harder to travel though, but when he's home, he may be much stronger than the rest.
-Matilda Dahlgren/Groove Magazine
Chicago Free Press
STEVEN ALVARADO – Let It Go
Backed up by a crack team of musicians, including Marc Ribot and Kenny Wollensen, Steven Alvarado returns with his radiant fourth album “Let It Go” (Mott Street). A queer take on roots and Americana music, Alvarado’s gruff but gracious vocals provide the glow in songs such as “It’s For You,” the early Tom Waits-like “Nobody Knows,” the swishing swing of “Burning Bridges,” the urban twang of “Gone, Gone, Gone,” the Springsteen-esque “It’s Alright” and the most overtly gay number on the disc, the glorious “New York,” a track Alvarado dedicated to his best friend, acclaimed gay poet Aaron Smith.
-GREGG SHAPIRO, CHICAGO FREE PRESS
STEVEN ALVARADO - THE ADVOCATE INTERVIEW
“I DON’T FIT INTO THE GAY MUSIC SCENE, if there is one,” muses singer-songwriter Steven Alvarado at a coffee shop in New York City, his adopted home. “I hate dance music, and I know this is a sin, but I’m not a fan of Madonna.” Alvarado is instead a Bob Dylan man, and there’s no question the 30-something’s acoustic guitar—based folk is steeped in the tradition of troubadours like Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg.
Growing up gay as a born-again Christian in Southern-California, Alvarado wrote songs to deal with the central contradiction of his life: “You have to be a broken person if you want to really connect to people,” he says. He scored his first record deal with a band, but both quickly dissolved. Then he played solo gigs around Los Angeles until he was signed by Richie Valens’s old label, Del-Fi, and recorded Mercy. After relocating to Nashville, Alvarado made Bleed, while working in a grocery store and later at DreamWorks Records, where he was gifted a TiVo by an unlikely admirer: country star Toby Keith.
Seven years later, Alvarado moved to New York landing a job at a recording studio that would change his life. “I got to meet all of the musicians who played on my new album,” he says of April’s Let It Go, a record that’s piquing the interest of gay and straight listeners (the first single, “It’s for You,” was picked up by Logo and VH1’s websites). When legendary guitarist Marc Ribot swung by the studio, Alvarado seized the opportunity and booked him, and Ribot’s soulfully edgy riffs adorn Alvarado’s husky-voiced meditations on love gone wrong. “Every time I sat down to write a song I was writing about all these fallen-apart relationships,” he explains, before backtracking a little: “But no one song is about any one specific person—they’re all blended together.”
-Caryn Ganz, The Advocate Magazine
PRO SOUND NEWS MAGAZINE
LETTING IT GO AT DUBWAY
-By Christopher Walsh, Pro Sound News Magazine
Steven Alvarado is set to release his fourth solo album, Let It Go, on April 1st on his own Mott Street label. The product of sessions at Dubway Studios that spanned one year, Let It Go, which features musicians Marc Ribot, Kenny Wollesen, Rob Burger and Joe Quigley, is a shining example of the other music-industry revolution launched by the personal computer: online, Alvarado’s music is distributed globally via download and CD sales and is spun on internet and terrestrial radio stations based around the world. Further, by virtue of demand in cities around the world, he organizes tours via online correspondence with local promoters and agents.
Let It Go is an extremely likeable collection of songs, most of them featuring sparse and acoustic arrangements that recall, to this listener, Tom Waits, Neil Young and early Van Morrison. Upon its release, Let It Go is likely to build on the considerable buzz around Alvarado’s previous release, The Howl Sessions.
“We definitely went for ‘high-fidelity lo-fi,’ if that makes any sense,” Alvarado allows. “There are not a lot of instruments on the album—mostly acoustic guitar, bass and drums throughout, with a sprinkling of Marc Ribot’s electric guitar, and piano on one song. So we really stripped it down, but definitely went for a high-fidelity sound, without overdoing it.”
Like many other contemporary independent artists, Alvarado is exploiting the Web’s distribution and promotional opportunities. His Cds are sold through CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com), which distributes indie artists’ music to iTunes and scores of other e-tailers, and recently began selling downloads via its own website.
“It’s funny,” Alvarado muses of his global reach. “It’s all so much internet-related. Last year I got 80,000 hits to my website; I don’t know how people find me, they just seem to do it. I get lots of e-mail from people I don’t know, asking me for a copy of the CD for their radio station, or internet station. The internet has totally changed everything for independent artists. My last two tours were entirely booked through the internet, and I never spoke to anybody in person until I actually got to the venues.”
TOP 10 ALBUMS - USA Today
Let It Go
First Impressions: Today's 10-spot of albums
I continue to be impressed with the volume of high-quality music being released these days. Someday, maybe, when historians regain their perspective, this period will be looked upon as a golden era -- not necessarily by judging from the hits, but from the sheer, unprecedented quantity of good music. I know this isn't a popular viewpoint, and I also know, from first-hand experience, how easy it is to ossify your tastes with a particular time and place so that appreciating newer music becomes ever harder, but there are musical riches out there in profusion if you look for them.
Anyway, this week's 10, most of which in some way qualify to join the quality ranks:
Steven Alvarado, Let It Go (out April 1): Potential-filled singer/songwriter with a tantalizing hint of Dylan on a couple of tracks.
-Ken Barnes, USA Today
Aiding and Abetting blog
Steven Alvarado Let It Go (Mott Street)
Pleasantly unwound rootsy pieces. Alvarado has a fine rough-hewn voice, and he's got the likes of Marc Ribot and Kenny Wollesen backing him up. Hard to go wrong there, and Alvarado doesn't. Something to savor.
-Jon Worley, www.aidabet.com
LMNOP Music Blog
STEVEN ALVARADO - Let It Go
(CD, Mott Street, Pop)
Highly Recommended. 5 Stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Steven Alvarado makes music that seems to come straight from his subconsciousness. Instead of aiming for a particular audience or mimic the sound of other artists, this fellow seems to just let music flow from his veins.
His 2005 album The Howl Sessions made a lot of people sit up and take notice. Our guess is that Let It Go will be even more well received. The album features an all-star cast of session musicians that includes Marc Ribot, Kenny Wollesen, Rob Burger, and Joe Quigley. In some ways, Alvarado's songs recall the cool reflective quality of Kenny Siegel's music (Johnny Society)...except the sound is more organic overall. Like Kenny, Steven has a mesmerizing voice and his presence (that comes shining through in these recordings) is extraordinary. Alvarado is one of those guys who...if he gets lucky...could easily make the transformation from underground nobody to major celebrity in a flash.
His songs come straight from the heart...genuinely touching and real. Ten kickass tracks here including "Get This Far," "Nobody Knows," "Blue," and "Reasons." An instant hit.
-LMNOP Music Blog
THE HOWL SESSIONS Reviews:
Interview: Steven Alvarado
Meeting Mr. Alvarado on his home turf, NYC
As many of our readers will know, we at MakingMusic are huge fans of New York Singer songwriter, Steven Alvarado. As it happens I was the lucky one to meet up with him on his home territory on my recent trip.
Based in New York, Steven has everything he could ever need on his doorstep, therefore he doesn’t suffer much from jet lag, but I should have know better than to ring a musician before midday to arrange to meet up. After my rude awakening at 11am we decided to meet in SoHo, downtown New York at 1pm. As a first time visitor to NYC, I decided to make my way from Central park by taxi, this took only ten minutes, so I had a while to waste, however, there is always something to do in this most vibrant and diverse of cities, for me though, lunch beckoned. After this, I stood on a street corner, called Steven again and agreed to meet outside a ‘famous’ pizza parlor, famed for it’s involvement in the well documented impromptu Madonna vs. Paparazzi battle.
Within minutes, the man who looks exactly like he does in his photos, arrived, refreshed, relaxed and smiling so we targeted another coffee house.
The man behind his music is a genuine, sincere guy, who is not only pleased to answer any questions, but appears truly interested in what you have to say. He is ebullient about New York and is very excited about his trip to London and France next month.
Speaking to Steven it is obvious his passion drives his music and his music is his passion, and to the constant frustration of his record company, of which he is a partner, you could not find a musician less interested in the commercial aspect of this world. Steven does not write music to sell, he writes what he wants, about what he wants and that’s it. If people do buy it, then that is just a happy coincidence, and with some breaking news, it would appear that this coincidence is soon to become a lot happier.
Steven also runs a recording studio in the Chelsea area of New York, which not only gives him the facility to get his work recorded, but also the access to some very fine musicians, whom he is humble enough to appreciate their enthusiasm for his work.
Inspiration for Steven’s music is quite literally around every corner in this city and when the need to write descends on him, he will quickly write three or four songs almost simultaneously, each influencing the other, back and forth and each story fuelling the next chapter.
Many musicians will tell you about their childhood - stealing moments of late night radio, or TV shows with inspirational characters that have made them ‘pick up a guitar and sing’, but not for Steven. During his high school days a friend of his would often come to school with a guitar, sit in the hallway and strum and sing, this mesmerized a young Mr. Alvarado, so much so that he went home, bought a guitar and started doing the same, neither he nor anyone who loves his music has any regrets about this.
It has to be said, that the future is a very exciting place to be for both Steven and his growing number of fans.
Firstly, Steven told us in confidence about some interesting developments; checking his web site since my return, confirms that the ‘news’ is now released and that a US based TV series, Roadtrip Nation has opted to include a some of Stevens music in some up and coming episodes, this will not only prove profitable, but will immediately throw his name in front of millions of new listeners… exciting times? ‘well yes, I have say that I do love the idea that my music will be heard by more people, I think any songwriter wishes for that, the fact that it will earn some cash is definitely a ‘happy coincidence’’ Steven added.
For those of you in the UK, there is good news too, but you will have to be quick off the mark. Steven is touring Europe and this is including two dates in London. The Troubadour Café and the 12Bar will both play host to Steven on the 3rd and 4th October, take a look at Steven’s web site for more details.
If you do miss out on these live shows, please check back this site and we will endeavor to keep you up to date with the latest news from Mr. Alvarado.
Part two to follow...
Steven Alvarado, Live in London at The Troubadour
The Man is a Troubadour
After a few short weeks back in the UK, we needed our U.S. fix, but the lack of funds, and too much work, meant that we had to settle for the next best thing, and please believe us, this man will be the Next Best Thing.
From the time that news broke of Steven Alvarado's first UK performances, this MakingMusic office has been rather excited - to learn that his first performance would be at London's world famous Troubadour Music club - the venue for Bob Dylan's first UK gig - just doubled the excitement level. We have been pacing the office and watching kettles boil for weeks, and then, the time came for what will be an historic gig.
The Troubadour is a small, intimate venue, perfect for close-up music. This suited the material and performance of Mr. Alvarado.
Steven's live performances are a deeply personal experience, none more so than for the artist himself - the songs are emotions delivered in a shy 'why should I tell you my deepest secrets' kind of way - but his desire to disclose those secrets to people who care, overwhelms him and disclose them he does.
Quite simply, being in the presence of this performance was a privilege - to be allowed in to his world for thirty minutes can at times be a eerie experience - sometimes you find yourself wondering if you should be there, like you have stumbled into a conversation that you're not sure if you should hear.
The audience on that night were less respectful initially, broadcasting their 'louder-than-necessary' conversations about buildings and food, cars and girls. However, after a worthy sound engineer entered the stage after the third song and issue a warning, an agreeable applause was initiated and normal service was resumed. Steven's timing for his next song - Wish You Were Here (Postcards from Hell) - was perfect, he explained that this was written because an old 'friend' told him that he would go to hell - this was the songwriters' response and his message to all - 'Don't F*** with a Songwriter' was not lost on this audience. Point well made!
Opening for the evening meant that Steven's first UK gig was far too short, next time this will not be case - all of you reading this now need to demand your favorite venue to call Steven and book him - more people need to witness this fine songwriter, and the UK needs to hear crafted songs of this quality more often.
Thank you Steven
Steven Alvarado - The Howl Sessions
“Brilliant acoustic music from a great songwriter. Earthy, beautiful and soulful. Gruff American Music Club. Modern folk-roots-rock… Artful indie-country-rock… Part Jerry Jeff Walker, part Neil Young… All good.”
-Hybrid Magazine, Colorado
THE DELI MAGAZINE
The Howl Sessions Steven Alvarado (Mott Street)
Raw, haunting and compelling, Steven Alvarado’s “The Howl Sessions” is full of battle scars, dirt in your teeth, and open wounds all over your body. “Howl (Pushing Up Daisies)” references beats Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and is forceful and vigorous enough to make me think that he might be angling for a movement of his own. Alvarado evokes Bruce Cockburn’s vocal stylings and pairs them with lyrics that range from the somber to the exuberant without once breaking a sweat. Melodically, there’s nothing short of virtuosity here, whether it’s the country-flavored guitars on “Wish You Were Here (Postcards From Hell)” or the positivist anthem “I Feel The Rain.” The album doesn’t shy away from incorporating very different sounds, and yet the feel ends up being startlingly gorgeous and cohesive.
-Stephanie R. Myers, The Deli Magazine New York City
REVIEW: Steven Alvarado
The Howl Sessions (Mott Street)
Solo album 3, in a recording career going back to 1991 isn’t a frenetic release schedule, but it’s worth waiting for something this good.
His vocal style alone would make this worthwhile, even if he was singing the equivalent of the telephone directory, for his warm, lived in voice, is a treat. However, he knows how to write a memorable tune as well. Amongst the many highlights here are the tragic “Morphillia (A Girl I Knew)” and “Wish You Were Here (Postcards From Hell)”, which show a depth of lyricism rarely heard these days. How can you go wrong with an opening stanza of;
You told me I’m going to Hell
I’m finally here and doing swell
I’ll send you a card ‘wish you were here’
‘umm humm, down here
He is well respected enough to be able to call on some well connected players to help bring his vision to life, with Rob Burger (Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones) on organ, Joe Quigley, (Shawn Colvin, Lisa Loeb) on bass, Mike Presta, (Counting Crows, Melissa Etheridge) on drums and Richard Barone, (Lou Reed, Patti Smith) on bongo's, amongst others.
But it’s to his credit that his songs and voice rise above the backing to make a righteous claim for respect in his own right. A truly excellent release.
-Stuart Hamilton, Zeitgeist Music
The Howl Sessions-Steven Alvarado
Bleed, the highly acclaimed predecessor to The Howl Sessions (Mott St. Records) is a hard act to follow, but Steven Alvarado pulls it off with his latest offering. The Howl Sessions, recorded and produced by Alvarado in New York City, is a personal, political, acoustically-bent CD.
Alvarado, who is originally from California but has done his time in Nashville, is now flourishing musically in New York City, where he managed to assemble a group of talented, star musicians including Rob Burger (Rufus Wainwright, Nora Jones) on a variety of organs, Joe Quigley, (Shawn Colvin, Lisa Loeb) on bass, Mike Presta (Counting Crows, Melissa Etheridge) on drums, Richard Barone (Lou Reed, Patti Smith) on bongos, Al Houghton (They Might Be Giants, Penny Arcade) on electric guitar, and Mike Crehore, (Phoebe Snow, Patty Austin) also on electric guitar.
As a songwriter, Alvarado is a salty, epigrammatic, storytelling poet. “Howl (Pushing up Daisies)” begins with the line, “I’m a beaten down poet…” who claims to sell tragedy for $10 a pop unless you’ve already stolen it. The song goes on to explain that Jesus is still pushing up daisies, still in the grave… and that Alvarado is an American Beauty with buzz but no high. This track alone warrants repeated play in order to understand where Alvarado is coming from, and where he’s going with The Howl Sessions.
Vocally, Alvarado is rarely in tune—he stretches his voice beyond its comfort zone and doesn’t always hit the note he’s supposed to, but this is part of his charm. He sounds like a scruffy friend who sat down in your garage with a used mic and a battered acoustic guitar, intending to share his sense of the world with you through his lyrics.
Which is exactly what Alvarado is, and what The Howl Sessions accomplish. Some of the melodies and song structures are too similar for my taste—they sound very much alike, but the lyrics are all unique and full of meaning.
The CD is produced in an old-school acoustic style, with Alvarado’s vocals and acoustic guitar leading the way on all the tracks—organ, bass, electric guitar, and drums lightly accompany him in his solo effort as a singer of gritty, disgruntled American guy songs.
The tracks sound like they were recorded in a garage with a group of friends who just happen to be incredibly talented musicians. And they are. It’s an interesting and welcoming effect, one that brings you closer to the lyrics than any other style Alvarado might have employed for The Howl Sessions.
-Chris S. Witwer (Los Angeles) GayWired.com
REVIEW & Interview: The Howl Sessions
Mott Street Records
STEVEN ALVARADO - AMBITIONLESS!
We have been listening to a sensational artist, Steven Alvarado - this may be the start of something beautiful in the Making Music offices and we have fallen in love with this guy's Steam Powered vocals and stories from his latest release The Howl Sessions.
Physically, Steven was born in California, however his spiritual heart soon corrected that accident when he moved to New York to synchronize his heart and music. The man claims to be ambitionless, which from a our perspective, makes him a success...
In his own words, Steven's latest album, The Howl Sessions is his best record yet, of which he is justifiably proud' Well, we here at makingmusic are new to Steven and are not going to judge this against his previous work, but purely on it's own merits. This album is GOOD. Of course there are many ways you can inflict the word 'good' in any sentence, but please believe us, on this occasion we need no more embellishment. Here in the office, we have fallen in love with this man's music and voice; our neighboiurs now believe we only have one album!
Quite simply everyone who appreciates well crafted songs, good musicianship balanced with pure, clean production will have to buy this album, and probably all his back catalogue and all future work. Steven's unique vocal goes a long way to colour this work, previous reviewers' observations likening of him to Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen only serve to give a fore taste of a genre. For our part Steven's Steam powered voice is a perfect device for the output of such textured and lyrics and stories.
'Pushing up Daisies', proclaims a 'non-belief in Angels' and of being a 'beaten down poet, selling tragedy on plastic ' is a surprisingly depressive, uplifting song. Acoustic poetry with friends.
We won’t go on too much, make your own mind up and buy the CD. Go to Steven's site for a lot more info and the fantastically named web site. www.stevenalvarado.com
Steven's dues are all paid in full, from California to Nashville, on to NYC and all stops in between. Guests on his work reads like a who's who of the cool and talented and is a token of the respect he has earnt.
Any comparisons to more well known artists will not prove of any use, this work is unique and deserves universal airplay.
We spoke to Steven and asked him our standard Top 20 questions. Here’s what he had to say...
Who and what did you listen to when you were growing up?
"Well first of all, let me say thank you for all the enthusiasm about my album, you guys are great and I really appreciate it. It’s not everyday someone puts up a shrine to me on their Website. Wow!
I have always been surrounded by pretty eclectic music. Everything from Patty Griffin & Sam Phillips to Cold Play to Led Zeppelin to Neil Young to Miles Davis and John Coltrane (one of my favorites.)"
What or who got you interested in playing an instrument?
"I first learned the flute because I thought it was cool, but I couldn’t sing and play flute so that was a problem. In high school a kid I knew used to bring his acoustic guitar to class and sing and play songs in the hall. The first time I saw that I was smitten. I borrowed my sister’s boyfriend’s guitar and started teaching myself. I started writing songs from day one. I was never interested in learning anyone else’s music because I had plenty to say myself."
Have you had any formal training, if not how have you taught yourself?
"Early on I took a few guitar lessons, but that was it. I just practiced a lot."
What are you listening to at present?
"Dave Sharp from The Alarm put out a solo album years ago called Hard Traveling. I started listening to that again recently and I’m just addicted to it. It's so good."
How did the band get together?
"Well, we aren’t a band. I was lucky enough to meet all these great musicians at the studio and through mutual friends. Guys like Rob Burger who plays with Rufus Wainright and Nora Jones and Joe Quigley who’s played with Shawn Colvin."
What ambitions do you have as a band?
"I don’t have any ambitions. I’m ambitionless."
What musician or artist, dead or alive, would you like to meet and why?
"Marlene Dietrich. Can you imagine hanging out with her? You would be fabulous by association."
What advice would you give to young musicians starting out?
"Be honest in what you write. If it’s a put on, no one will respect you and no one will relate to you. Anyone can make up stories, but few people can tell the truth. If you do that people will respond to you and you’ll get noticed."
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
"F**k ‘em all, be yourself."
What has been your favourite gig?
"I played this tiny little bar in Hollywood CA once. It was just me and my guitar and it was one of those magical nights where I just had them. I sold it out and it was really great. I’ve had many like that but that was special."
Who is the moaner of the band?
"Hmmm… well I’ve never had sex with any of those guys so I couldn’t tell you. But if I had to guess I’d say me."
"An American show on HBO called Six Feet Under. It’s amazing."
"It changes but right now I’d say Angels In America."
Actor or Actress?
"Christopher Walken is at the top of my list. He’s so bizarre and fantastic. Also Al Pacino, you just can’t touch him."
"England, Italy & France. Sadly, I’m embarrassed at the moment by my own country because of our idiot president. When he’s out of office I’m just going to pretend it never happened."
Method of transport?
"Walking. I live in New York City."
Time of day?
"In the summer time just about an hour before the sun goes down and there’s a nice cool breeze blowing and the sky is beautiful."
"Does drinking with friends count?: (yes, Ed.)
Desert Island, one CD. Which album and why?
"Sam Phillips, Cruel Inventions. I think that is her masterpiece album."
What gear do you use?
"I play a Guild acoustic guitar. I love Taylor guitars and would play one if they would endorse me. I’d tell everyone how amazing they are in every interview."
Thank you Steven
-Rob Wyborn, Making Music UK
Chicago Free Press
STEVEN ALVARADO – The Howl Sessions
“New York City transplant Steven Alvarado has assembled an all-star cast of musicians, including Richard Barone of The Bongos, to perform with him on his latest album The Howl Sessions (Mott Street). The ten catchy pop songs, buoyed by Alvarado’s smoky vocals, emanate audible and irresistible warmth. Whether he’s referencing both Allen Ginsberg and John Lennon in “Howl” or observing the decline of those around him as in “Morphillia (A Girl I Knew)” and “Mad At The World” or celebrating queer love in “Wildflowers” or telling someone off as in both “Tea & Sympathy” and “Wish You Were Here (Postcards From Hell),” Alvarado does it with style.”
-Gregg Shapiro, Chicago Free Press
The Howl Sessions
Steven Alvarado - Mott Street Records
Channeling Jakob Dylan and Matthew Sweet, crooner Steven Alvarado provides an enjoyable, if flawed, exercise in folk-rock conventions with his third album, The Howl Sessions. In thoughtful tunes like “Morphilia (A Girl I Knew)” and “Tea & Sympathy,” the openly gay, New York–based singer-songwriter brings to mind a certain cadre of musicians that belongs to an earlier decade, who made easy-on-the-ears music without flashy production or ear-splitting decibels. Alvarado’s sound is similarly unadorned. The sparse arrangements highlight the artist’s strong guitar playing and reflective and interesting lyrics, especially when he sings about gay romance in “Wildflowers.”
-Neal Broverman, Out Magazine - Los Angeles
Whispering And Hollerin, Review:
The Howl Sessions
Label: Mott Street Records
Our Rating: Five Stars ☆☆☆☆☆
“New York based STEVEN ALVARADO definitely has a knack for getting close to a good tune. He's a US singer songwriter in a long tradition with some mighty talents. TOM PETTY and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN would be your K2 and your Everest… On that scale, he's worth a good second look.”
“I'm on his side because there's a technical roughness to the recording that puts the quality of the song and heart of the man right up to the front. Voice and guitar are both on the lumpy side. "Sessions" is an accurate title word. Drumming is basic, playing is rough and ready, the voice even shifts off the note now and then.”
“His approach to production is equally loose. The best of the songs have the universal quality that would make for good cover versions. "I'm tryin to Tell You" does sing out as a tune, with a good chorus. " Morphilia (A Girl I Knew)" gets a nice organ part going, and follows through with a bitter-sweet ballad that works well enough. "Wildflowers" has a big universal feel to it. "I Know You Loved Me" uses a mournful accordion to underpin a seafaring sort of song that invites close listening.”
“…In a head to head with JAMES BLUNT, I'd go for ALVARADO's gruff honesty any day.”
-Sam Saunders (Ireland)
Atomic Duster Music:
Steven Alvarado – The Howl Sessions (Mott St Records)
"Lazy foot tappers aplenty get under your skin on this US artist’s current album, but it’s the more off kilter tracks that make the more pleasing impression; “Mad At the World” seems to contain an angry Japanese rant, presumably by Shoko Watanabe, and is set to a wonderfully fucked up chord sequence that is easily the standout for me on the recording.
Elsewhere you’ll find nods to Springsteen, tips of the hat to Ryan Adams and shades of Van Morrison amongst others..."
-Tone E, UK
THE DELI MAGAZINE
Interview: Steven Alvarado on Studio Recording
Interview by C. Jones
What advice would you give to a band that is entering the recording studio for the first time ever?
"Well- I would say have a plan. Map out what you want to accomplish each day so that you have a realistic idea of how much time you will need to complete your project. It's best to be as prepared as possible. Time fly's in the studio and it doesn't take long for you to eat up your entire budget.”
Many young artists tend to ignore any production or technical advice to pursue their own vision. How often does that pay off?
"You could probably make your own shirts, but they probably won't look very good, or fit too well. If you are working in a pro studio it's likely that you will be surrounded by people who are very good at what they do, you should take advantage of that."
With the advent of the lo-fi scene - many bands think that any crappy recording (and performance) can become a hit and that sound engineers are not necessary. What's your opinion about that?
"Many people hear these recordings that are really stripped-down and raw sounding and are astounded by them including me, but don't kid yourself. Those albums are recorded on some pretty amazing equipment and with microphones that cost five thousand dollars. There's a lot of work involved to get that kind of pure sound. But it goes beyond the equipment. A great engineer can make a below average artist sound great, which is really kind of a drag if you think about it. But a really great artist is probably going to sound pretty good even in a home recording situation. The technology has gotten really good. The problem is, you will never be as good as a pro engineer. They know how to record things in ways you don't. I've gone the DIY way in the past like everyone else and it's never as good as the studio. If you are really good, then you should treat your art like it's worth a damn and do it right. If you aren't willing to spend money on your own music, then probably no one else will be either. Including music fans."
What can producers add to the equation?
"It really depends on the artist. Producers are sometimes completely necessary, and sometimes completely superfluous. Some people need lots of direction and others have a very clear picture of what they want and how to get it. I have a handful of producers whose work I absolutely love, yet I have always produced my own albums. I couldn't imagine working with a producer on my own album. I fall into the category of knowing what I want and how to get it."
Is expensive gear really necessary to record great music?
"Expensive no, sophisticated yes. The problem is, sophisticated gear usually cost a lot of money. And even then, unless you have an experienced engineer, the equipment is only going to take you so far."
How do you see the contradiction of using expensive gear in the studio to make great sounding records that end up being listened via mp3, i.e. a very average sounding compressed audio format?
"Well-that's not the same thing. A great recording sounds pretty good on anything. But crap will always sound like crap. I like mp3's. I imported my entire music collection into my iBook & iPod a while back and I love it. And this is coming from a guy who has access to super high quality equipment."
What are your feelings about Mp3s in general?
"I like them. They have gotten better with mp4 etc. Anything you buy from iTunes is pretty high quality. The technology is only going to get better. I love to buy music online, it's easy and it's immediate. It doesn't have the physical limitations of a record store where they can only carry a certain number of CD titles. There is only so much rack space and only so many customers that live within a reasonable distance from that store to sell CD's to. The internet doesn't have those limitations. Every album recorded past, present and future will be available to anyone anywhere who wants to buy it. This means all the small obscure and unknown albums indies or majors, will make more money than the few hits. It's shear numbers. There are more misses than hits and the dollar value of the misses is greater than the dollar value of hits simply because there are more of them. This isn't futuristic thinking, this is today, right now. iTunes, Amazon and Netflix have built their entire business on this idea. Even though the misses only sell/rent one or two copies, the number of the misses is endless and they can carry every single title because they don't need to build physical retail outlets. This all started with the internet and selling things online, but when mp3's came along they gave it a jolt. So like I said, I like them and they will only get better. The record companies are already gearing up for this new way of releasing and buying music. CD's will be gone in five years."
What's the band/artist that changed your life?
"God, there have been several. I love Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin and Sam Phillips. Sam's my favorite-I worship the ground she walks on, seriously. Back in the day, I was a huge U2 fan from the beginning. They were really it for me back then. These days it's anything stripped down and honest with a good voice."
-C. Jones, The Deli Magazine
Review: Steven Alvarado, BLEED Four Stars ✭✭✭✭
Some of you may remember Alvarado's solo debut Mercy on Del-fi. It was a fine record that set his warm voice and first rate songwriting against a backdrop of AOR style pop. With his sophomore effort, bleed, he has grown considerably, not only as a songwriter and musician, but as a first rate producer as well. Songs like "We Can Make It" and "Now I'm Cynical" would be right at home on an early Matthew sweet record, while "Just A Boy" sounds like Warren Zevon trying a Tom Petty song on for size. Steve's current Nashville home has rubbed off on him a bit as well, on both the wonderful "Just A Little" and the heartfelt "You And I."
The playing throughout is top-notch, with nice Hammond B-3, piano, trumpet and percussion fills keeping things fresh and original. When Alvarado sings, "I got a gun and a bullet/A preacher and a pulpit," it's like he's taking one through the heart. The crimson may run deep on bleed, but his soul and band keep it all alive.
-ENO, POPSIDED MAGAZINE