In Montreal – Cliff Stevens is known as ‘ Slowhand ‘.
Something that came as a surprise to Stevens at one point in his musical life.
” I loved Clapton and loved playing his music.” Says Cliff from his ‘home away from home’ Morocco. “Everywhere I played or went, people kept telling me I sounded like Clapton and looked like him too. It took me a while but I caught on and starting doing a tribute to him!’ He laughs.
For those who know Cliff, guitar playing and music is at the top of his priorities. A craft he works very hard at and the results are in full glossy form musically and personally on his second album; ‘Grass Won’t Grow’. A disc which combines elements of one of Clapton’s favorite songwriters – J.J. Cale.
” Writing the songs, I did not conscientiously think of Cale but there is definitely that influence in there.” Admits Cliff. “Cale was so influential on Clapton’s career with songs like ‘Cocaine’, my affection of Clapton’s music is an extension of Cale.”
‘Grass Won’t Grow’ is a record which Stevens is extremely fond of and the album has hard work combined with personal lyrics. In short, an accumulation of Steven’s life so far. Any artist whose passion for music leads them into romantic troubles will identify immediately with the album’s theme and the album’s second song ‘Price You Pay’
” It’s my life …” chuckles Cliff. ” I’ve had a few relationships over the years which don’t work out because of my lifestyle as a working musician. It isn’t easy being on the road and committing to a union of two people. The end of some were my fault and some were because of my unwillingness to ‘stay home’ The lyrics are all about my feelings, thoughts and emotions.”
Stevens’ ‘unwillingness ‘ to stay home is somewhat reflective of the live music scene in Montreal. Something which has sadly diminished in the past few years.
” Doing my music or the Clapton tribute, the scene in Montreal was not enough to make a living.” Explains Cliff.
” There are places I play and continually get work when I am Montreal but it is just not enough to pay the bills. I have come to Morocco for a few years now and it is a great place for travelling musicians. My expenses are small in Morocco and there is enough work to keep coming back.”
‘Grass Won’t Grow’ is a love affair for Stevens with a combination of Blues, Country and a small dose of Rock n Roll. Catchy choruses and clever riffs enhance Stevens’ solos with a genuine feeling of togetherness. A feeling Stevens contributes to the musicians playing on the album.
” I could not have done it without them” Admits Cliff.” I was so lucky these guys had time to help me out. ”
“Sam Harrisson ( Paul Deslauriers Band) is on drums, Alec McElcheran (one of Montreal’s most sought after session players) is on Bass and Eric Sauve adds Piano and Organ. The professionalism and experience these guys added were unbelievable. Their advice on arrangements – just enough to make the songs work that much better. It sounds clichéd but I really don’t think it ( the album) would have that continuous feel without them. Simon ( Jodoin) and Marc ( Theriault) engineered and mastered the album and without them, none of us are very good …”
‘Grass Won’t Grow’ opens with an easy-going flare. Unlike some ‘Blues’ albums, there is nothing repetitive to the senses.
‘The track that seems to be getting a lot of airplay is ‘Runnin’.” Explains Stevens. “It is more Rock and Pop than the others and it surprised me a bit. I’m just happy people like it. Of course – there is a Blues foundation within the song which most Rock n Roll has. “
“Don’t You Say’ – the opening track and the second tune ‘Price You Pay’, both contain a Stevie Ray Vaughn ‘Coldshot ‘ kinda feel. A tune custom-made for having a drink after a hard day’s work. The theme of a disenchanted female, absorbed by Stevens’ relaxing riffs and raspy vocals. Company for the misunderstood musician.
The’pearl’ of the album, a song which everyone should be singing along to once the chorus is embedded in their earphones is the title track; ‘Grass won’t Grow’. An infectious upbeat number destined for a movie soundtrack. A feel good upbeat number which, at the very least – leaves the listener humming all day.
‘Cryin’ My Heart Out’ is the aw shucks tune. The song which lyrically would make any woman forgive Cliff. With a touch of an eighties Colin James , the song remains distinctively Stevens. Something about the voice on this song and the album which arrives as pure and unadulterated. The powerful lead in by the band and more powerful solo is a must listen for any fan of the Blues ballad.
‘All Through the Night’ , should have been on The Beatles’ Abbey road album. A dark feel grounded by menacing riffs and an eerie solo. Blood curling stuff which grabs by the guitar neck and chokes you into the Blues-y Rock feeling of early seventies California. Spine – chillin’.
Please listen below to sample some of the songs on
‘Grass Won’t Grow’.