Album Review: Steven Hunley – The Other Side of Never

stephen hunleyTHE OTHER SIDE OF NEVER – Stephen Hunley (Etavine)

More and more, it’s getting harder to fit albums or even single songs into a slot such as country, pop, rock, folk, blues and so on.  (That’s probably why ‘Americana’ got invented.)  That’s not a bad thing. Why should an album or a song – or a singer – get pigeonholed into a particular genre?  As jazz giant Duke Ellington said, “If it sounds good, it is good.”

However, radio programmers are intent on shoehorning songs into slots to fit their stations’ formats such as Adult Contemporary (AC), Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), Hot AC, or some other combination of initials. And that’s where programmers might skip Stephen Hunley’s new project, ‘The Other Side of Never.’  If they DO skip it, it’s their loss… and their listeners’.

Hunley’s new project might be hard to categorize but one thing is undeniable: It is superb.

Hunley is emerging as a master songwriter (all twelve tracks here are solo self-penned) who could hold his own with any of Music City’s grizzled veterans in a Nashville Songwriter’s Round.  But he is more than that, with a voice and melodies that meld strains of contemporary jazz, soul and folk that add a unique touch to the evocative lyrics on each cut.

If that wasn’t enough, the recording is technically close to perfect with a warm analog vibe that evokes thoughts on ‘vinyl’ even when listening to an electronic version.  Kudos to producer Burton Akers, along with the legendary Billy Sherrill who supervised the album’s tracking and (with Van Atkins) the mixing.

Standout tracks: the unforgettably catchy “Elizabeth;” (His wife name) — the poignant “Oklahoma;” the full-throttle brass-powered “Call Me Baby.”  But there isn’t a dud in the pack.

“The Other Side of Never” deserves a GRAMMY nomination (or two) and maybe that will nudge radio programmers to add one of these cuts to their rotation.  But even if they don’t, this is still one of the year’s best projects in any genre.

CD Review by Preshias Harris

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