Album Review: Steve Azar - Delta Soul, Volume One
By: Matt Bjorke
Steve Azar has been making music for quite a long time, first as a superstar of the southeast – particularly in the Mississippi Delta area – then later the hit singer/songwriter of populist fare like “I Don’t Have To Be Me (Till Monday)” and "Sunshine.” He even had a video for “Waitin’ On Joe” that featured Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman. Along the way Steve’s toured with Bob Seger and released a handful of albums with 2009’s “Slide On Over Here” being the most recent album. Each album of his career has featured songs which have showcased Azar’s delta soul and it’s precisely these types of songs that he explores on the brand new album Delta Soul, Volume One.
The record kicks off with “Highway 61,” a new song which finds Steve singing precicely about the stretch of highway in the south which is often the road chronicled in blues music lore. It’s a strong track with delicious B3 licks, Weissenborn guitar fills and Azar’s always spot-on soulful vocal. Fans of strong soulful blues/rock will certainly enjoy “Flatlands,” particularly the part where a two minute solo breaks out, something that doesn’t happen in country music, even Keith Urban records. It’s just a funky, soulful good time of a song that’s gotta be fantastic to hear in a live setting.
“Gonna Be Good Luvin’ U” finds Steve Azar showing a little more grit in his vocal on this love song. It’s a little growl that feels like a mix between John Hiatt and Johnny Reid yet Steve retains the buttery-smooth tone to his voice that has always made him one of the unique and true artists in country music. It’s a fantastic song and one of the four ‘new’ songs on this record. Co-writer James House, he himself no stranger to soulful country music, provides harmonies on the track as well.
The five ‘previously recorded’ songs on this record are re-worked the way he had always had envisioned them to be recorded. “Bluestone” features Guitarist and bandleader Jason Young singing the second verse and the high Leon Russell like cries behind Azar’s own vocals. Young also gets a little harmonica solo on the track while “Indianola,” the title track to Steve’s third album, is a nice little story song about needing to get out of a small delta town while “Doin’ It Right” is a single from 2005 that served as Steve’s final track from his time with Mercury Nashville. The song is stripped of the ‘nashville’ gloss and is revealed to be quite a little spitfire of a soul ballad. A ‘delta soul’ album cannot be complete without a song that chronicles life along the mighty Mississippi river and Delta Soul, Volume One is completed with “The River’s Workin’.”
While some longtime fans may already be familiar with Steve Azar’s roots in the Mississippi Delta area, newer fans may not be all that familiar with his music and as such, Delta Soul, Volume One serves as a great introduction to the kind of artist that Steve Azar is. Delta Soul, Volume One is a collection of nine well-written and performed songs and has me excited to hear the future Delta Soul, Volume Two album.