It Starts With The Soul is Stephen Harrison’s 9th solo album and comprises of nine recently written and recorded songs in which he continues his development with writing on acoustic guitar that started with his two last albums ‘Today Tomorrow” in 2012 and ‘Cherry Fair’ in 2014. Stephen began writing songs back in the 1970’s when he was a teenager and song writing, along with painting has always been an important form of self expression for him.
From the fairly sombre opening track, ‘It Starts With The Soul’ written in waltz tempo, to the more up tempo tracks ‘Show The Summer To The Spring’ and “My Dream’s In My Pocket’ Stephen uses imagery and vignettes that communicate his experience, through music, of the human condition.
Though his lyrics are not Larkinesque, at the current time Stephen Harrison feels that the writings of the poet Philip Larkin form a very close reference point to Stephen’s own take on the human condition. Musically, the songs reflect Stephen’s interest in the finger picking guitar playing technique exemplars of which Stephen would cite as Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen or the early Paul Simon as helpful points of reference. Stephen likes to find delicate and rhythmic patters on the guitar over which a second guitar part is often overlaid – for example in the musical interlude in the song ‘One Fine Day’. This technique is present to a greater or less extent in most of the songs on the album. Lyrically Stephen prioritizes the manifestation of a seamless flow of the lyrics over this guitar orientated background. Lyrics are not written later in a separate exercise, instead they evolve along with the composition of the song itself as the guitar parts evolve. Through a process of careful self editing and distillation, the final lyrics and subject matter are crystallized and scan in harmony with the vocal melody. Often the result is an interesting distance set up between clearly focused meaning to the words in some songs, such as ‘Iago’s Light’ and more ambiguous situations where ideally the listener can complete the creative process such as in the opening song ‘It Starts with The Soul’.
The song called ‘Folly’ touches, with some ambiguity, on the damage we are doing to our planet and anticipates an answer through escape from it. “The Middle Of The Morning’ relates to changing moods as we go through each day. ‘Trains’ relates to a vignette or scene using poetic imagery to show rather than to tell. “Show The Summer To The Spring’ is a warm optimistic love song, balancing more melancholic tones elsewhere on the album. ‘The Radio Of Love’ is an imagined story of Rosie, from whom the narrator accepts a proposal of marriage. The title track ‘ItStarts With The Soul’ in part reflects human kinds difficulty in changing personal behaviour and emotions.
Imagery on the album often relates to the natural world and to places the memory of which Stephen holds dear. Other imagery is allowed to surface from his subconscious. He often likes to take the listener to a place or situation and is interested in furthering this process in future songwriting. The vocal deliver is clear, and carefully phrased.
Stephen hopes that the result is a half hour or so of listening experience that flows well and takes the listener on an enjoyable, rewarding and unique journey.