Review Summary: I cannot do this album justice.
Steve Unruh is not a full-time musician. His work cannot be found on pirate sites. Reviews of his music cannot be found easily on the internet. Most of his work cannot even be found on I-tunes, and yet, he plows away releasing album after album, every two years or so, to no acclaim what-so-ever. It's unfair that in this world, such brilliant music is overlooked, even by the most devout of Prog fans, and that his name remains in obscurity.
I happened to come across only one of his albums on a Russian pirate site. His newest album, "Challenging Gravity," was leaked and I downloaded it on a whim. I didn't expect much of it-Accoustic Prog Folk-as it was labelled-but I wanted to try something new. The gentle guitar melody, Unruh's voice and his words, captured me imediately. Intelligent and sorrowful words, commenting on depression and helplessness, engulfed me. A voice I'd never heard before, nor one can I even compare to anyone else's.
I tried to download every last one of his album, but, being unable to find them anywhere, I bought his full discography through his website. Every album was perfect and flawless, but this one "Two Little Awakenings" is his masterwork (acccording to me and Unruh himself)and a great place for anyone to be introduced.
Firstly, let me say that there are three reasons why people should hear this album.
1. Everything you hear on this album is played, written, sung and produced by Unruh himself. Unruh's sound is mostly accoustic and comprises of drums, accoustic guitar, fiddle, and a variety of other instruments, all played and mixed together expertly. The sound, despite being mostly accoustic, is poweful and full. Until I had heard Two Little Awakenings, I had no idea that an accoustic album could hold climaxes, or even, remain interesting for entire 30 minute long Prog epics. Yes, this is Prog Rock we're dealing with, but sans keyboards or techinical wizardry. Rather, the sound is Prog in its structure, ever changing and moving forward. It's Prog in its artistry and experimentation. Unruh is a master of his guitar and fiddle. Granted, the drumming is rather simplistic, but more than passeble. Listening to Unruh is listening to no other. Considering that all of this is handled by one man alone is worth seeking this out.
2. The album is life changing. It sounds corny, I know. Two Little Awakenings is a concept album, I believe, and I have not worked out as of yet what the story is about;however, at its core, I can safetly say its about human struggle and realizations. I believe its about coming to terms with our lives, how we all must sacrifice our dreams and eventually, settle down, and how much it really hurts to look back and realize how we aren't really where we imagined we'd be. The lyrics are cynical, bold, poetic and yet delivered with such a bluntness that it impacts us in ways we'd never thought possible. Two Little Awakenings is HORRIBLY depressing, yet insightful, and behind all of this sadness, we can hear a small message of hope, encouraging us to keep our hearts strong. Unruh drags us through misery for each track, and at the end of each track, we are given inspirational and spine chilling conclusions.
3. Catchy doesn't even begin to describe the music. I have no idea how Unruh can say such saddening things and still manage to write music that stays in our minds long after the album is over. The music has a rather happy sound to it, enough so that if we ignore the words, we'd imagine Two Little Awakenings were about taking trips in a car with the family. It's full of energy.
The stand-out (which is not easily picked) is the stunning 30 minute epic, Resolution. In this track, we can hear Unruh do what he does best-accoustic folk-yet give us a full pallette for angry, electric guitar outbursts. The climaxes contained are some of the best heard in Prog Rock and the lyrics are venemous, not necessarly attacking religion but rather making a comment on the hypocrisy of society.
"Oh, how this generation always seeks a sign was said by someone wise,
who we killed two thousand years ago."
I must have heard this album at least 100 times in its entirety, and by extension, so have my friends. My friends have never been for the Prog scene, its too challenging as they'd say, yet they adore Two Little Awakenings as well. Unruh manages to strike a balance between Prog and total accesibility. An album anyone can feel and love.
No, this is not a great review and I only wish my writing talents were good enough to tell you how brilliant the album and the musician are. I can only hope you, the reader, take my word for it and track this album down.
There's Misplaced Childhood for the 80's.
The Masquerade Overture for the 90's.
Two Little Awakenings for the early 2000's.