Steve Madewell achieves inner peace through acoustic beauty on ‘Arrow Creek’
Reviewed by Carson James
Steve Madewell/Arrow Creek
Was there an album released last year which had the handmade intimacy of Steve Madewell’s Arrow Creek? You can probably only count the number of such records on one hand. As far as acoustic folk and Adult Contemporary releases went, Madewell was in a space all his own. You see, too many musicians today record for the wrong reasons. Judging from the subtle charms of Arrow Creek, Madewell isn’t trying to pack arenas; heck, he isn’t even reaching for a Neil Young-sized gold rush. Instead, Madewell has bared his soul; Arrow Creek, then, is the lyrical and musical confessions of middle age, the thoughts and feelings of a man who is looking back on his life and to the future as well.
This is a record that is both polished and raw. How is that? The production is sleek and attractive; you can hear nearly every string on his guitar, especially on the title track which is utterly hypnotic. At the same time, Madewell doesn’t add any instruments that aren’t necessary. If I was to compare its warm, back-to-basics textures, I would rank it with Rick Rubin’s work with the late Johnny Cash. The only difference is that Rubin extracted Cash’s inner demons, creating a haunted, sometimes depressing atmosphere; Madewell emphasizes beauty and calmness, achieving an inner peace that the listeners can easily feel.