He’s got a voice that aches with life experience, yet he’s only 23 years old. How can someone so young be responsible for music that exudes so much emotion in each song without the slightest hint of melodrama?
It could be the clarity in his voice, the beautiful details of the music or his cutting yet poetic lyrics that leave the listener so satisfied. Every song on Stephen Fretwell’s first major release Magpie exudes such characteristics.
Being somewhat of a best-kept secret in the United Kingdom, Fretwell sprouted from the roots of northern England. The British singer-songwriter has been compared to musicians such as Damien Rice and David Grey. However, his off-kilter musicianship and ability to leave the listener craving more puts him a little closer in comparison to artists such as Jeff Buckley, Neil Finn or Ryan Adams.
On Magpie, Fretwell works with a multitalented band that only adds to his organic guitar style and musical vision. Having members such as drummer Jay Sikora, who also worked as producer on Fretwell’s first three releases, helps provide just the right amount of texture to the music. It’s not an easy task to add a full band without overcompensating and drowning the original vision intended, but Fretwell pulls it off well. For example, on the track titled, “Bad Bad You, Bad Bad Me,” the drums and piano are important to the effectiveness and add to the emotional climax of the track.
Each song on the album may be emotionally driven, but each one has a different story. Some have happiness covered in melancholy, such as “New York.” Others are full of heartache covered by beautiful lyrics, such as “Brother,” and some contain humor covered in cynicism, such as “What’s That You Say Little Girl.”
It’s a mood album. It’s an album to listen to when it’s raining, when there’s nothing but sunshine, when going through a breakup or in an indescribable place that only an emotional album will dig you out of. If Fretwell can keep up the level of musicianship that this album has set forth, then he may just find himself among the very best of songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen.