“Stepping Out of Time” by Steven MacDonald

In the opening bars of Stepping Out of Time’s title cut, Steven MacDonald welcomes us into his soul with a warm embrace, washing us in rich tonality and folky timbre. A message of holding onto your love whilst letting go of the past is imparted to us through bittersweet lyrics that ebb and flow with the intensity of the instrumentation. The Americana gives way to a purring pop simplicity in “Everything Starts From Nothing,” a simple ballad that slowly evolves into a folk-rock jam for the ages. Shades of the old guard reverberate in MacDonald’s rich drawl, and any potential debate over his skillset as a vocalist is shut down on the spot.

A beautiful guitar harmony brings us into every track here, with each seemingly taking some inspiration from MacDonald’s youth and life experiences to forge something relatable to the masses. “The Love I’ve Known” is a much more dangerous, experimentation-heavy moment for Stepping Out of Time, but it maintains vintage folk themes in its lyricism, which are removed from the scathing and political we find too often in modern revivals.

Love, romance, and reflection are all staples of the oasis that is “The Chords Wouldn’t Play,” a guitar ballad that highlights MacDonald’s awesome command of melody. The organic production of this track, like that of the rest of the album, is stunning to take in.

The powerful lyrics are made all the more endearing by how we’re able to make contact with them. There isn’t a silly scoop in the EQ nor an artificially-faceted insularity in the master mix, and thus the vocals and the guitar both end up sounding physical and real. The detail that songs like this one and the more mix-heavy “Empty Shell” boast would be lost on us were it not for this record’s amazing varnish, which is as attractive in its own right as any of the material it frames is.

We find all the more treasured tonality abound in a pair of loving numbers “A Rush” and “Any Port,” the latter of which is deceptively easy-going in its rhythm but cutting and unapologetic with its lyrics. There’s plenty of contrast in this record to keep listeners on their toes as they wander through the eight tracks, but for as diverse a set list as this album has nothing feels fragmented or unfinished as we approach its conclusion.

Guitar-driven folk music of the most superb variety reigns supreme at this juncture of the LP, and yet there’s never a sense of bloated virtuosity awaiting the audience as we near the finish line. We conclude with “Down the River She Runs,” which artfully brings us full circle and returns us safely to the comforts of MacDonald’s amazing vocals, which soar towards the sky against the backdrop of a primeval folk-driven melody. Stepping Out of Time is an engaging listen, to put it mildly, and hardcore fans of folk music would be robbing themselves of a powerful audiological experience by not checking out Steven MacDonald’s new record this fall.

Chadwick Easton


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