Record Review – Every Soul’s a Sailor – Stephen Fearing

January 5, 2017 | By

There is a realization that comes with preparing to write a review of certain records, early in the listening process. It is the realization that a truly adequate review of the album is out of the question without months of careful listening and thought, and yet release dates and deadlines demand a review before that can happen.

Every Soul’s a Sailor”, the new release from Stephen Fearing is one of those records. So let me preface my remarks by saying that you should treat them as early impressions of what is a very deep work, from a gifted writer.

Last year I saw Fearing perform at Hugh’s Room in Toronto … a show at which he played a half dozen of his new songs. Some of those songs are on “Sailor”.

The clear standout among the new tunes, for me, was “Red Lights in the Rain”. Stephen was by himself that night, with just his acoustic guitar, and it seemed the perfect setting for that song in particular, and for the new tunes generally. I had the nerve to tell him that my one wish for the record he was about to record would be that it not be over produced, and he replied that the plan was for a trio record with just guitar, bass and drums. That is precisely what has been delivered in “Every Soul’s A Sailor”, and it is a triumph of the beauty and depth which can be found in simplicity.

This is a record about coming to terms with our lack of control over the big picture of our journey through the world, while finding comfort and truth in the fact that we can still write our own story, sing our own song, and deal in love, with each other.

The opening track, “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”, states this theme simply in it’s chorus.

You’ve got to find love and compassion, like an old friend, every day
For when love falls out of fashion, and the world is old and grey …

The Things We Did” is a story told from the perspective of an obituary writer … a dying profession, for certain, if it is not already gone, but the song is also another way of coming at the theme of finding control in the small and personally meaningful.

Maybe we become the love that our children carry with ‘em
Give ‘em the key to your heart if it’s the only thing you give ‘em.

Similarly, in “Gone But Not Forgotten”, a song for a loved one who has gone on:

Love is the pearl you leave behind
Shining like a secret hidden in between the lines.”

And in “Carousel”, a letter to an old friend who is struggling with the big picture frustration:

And everybody seems to hold the secret of success
So what of it, what of it?
Listen to your heart, it’ll show you more or less
That you discover it, for the love of it.”

With the title track, the closing song on the album, we are reminded once again that much is out of our hands when it comes to our journey through this world …

Read the cards and weep, Every soul’s a sailor, rollin’ on the deep.”

Every Soul’s a Sailor” is a beautiful collection of carefully crafted songs, held together by the central theme of finding truth and meaning in the small, the personal, and the creative forces which drive us and make us who we are.

And yet, there is much and more to find in the individual songs: “Blowhard Nation“, the rollicking rant against all that is wrong with the big picture of the world these days; “Better Than Good”, an utterly gorgeous love song; “Red Lights in the Rain”, a meditation on the loneliness of the traveling troubadour, who is constantly making and breaking connections.

The musicianship on this record is top notch all the way around, which is no surprise given that the rhythm section for the trio is made up of Gary Craig on drums and John Dymond on bass, Fearing’s cohorts from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. I’ve long known Stephen to be a brilliant acoustic guitar player, but if there is a revelation on this album, it is that he is also a hugely tasteful and tasty lead electric guitarist.

“Every Soul’s a Sailor” is one of the first roots music releases of 2017, and yet I have no doubt that it should find a well deserved place on the end of year best of lists, come December.


The record is our Feature Album of the Week on FolkNRoots Radio, beginning with an initial play through following Twenty Eight Tunes, on Saturday afternoon, January 7, at 4pm eastern time. You can check the schedules on our web site for additional opportunities to check out this excellent new record from Stephen Fearing, throughout the week.

And when it drops on Tuesday, January 10, go buy it!


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Category: Record Reviews

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