April 1999

Stephen Bruton - Nothing But the Truth
New West NW6005
Released: 1999

by Bruce Bassett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]What do you get when you cross traditional blues with contemporary country? If you are fortunate enough to have the talent and creative prowess of Stephen Bruton, you get a divine marriage of styles that transcends the boundaries of both.

Although Stephen Bruton may not be a household name -- yet -- many of us have already unknowingly been exposed to his talent. Bruton has been a fixture in the music industry for over 25 years. To give you an idea of just how covertly pervasive he has been, I’ll drop just a few names of people he has performed with: Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, T-Bone Burnett, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Goodman, Carly Simon, Bruce Cockburn, Sue Foley -- the list goes on and on. Additionally, he has produced numerous albums and written songs recorded by Raitt, Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Hal Ketchum, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, The Boneshakers, Lee Roy Parnell and others.

Now, don’t let my opening question lead you to believe that Steven Bruton’s music is only the result of melding country and blues. Bruton’s diverse musical experiences, and influences, go far beyond those two genres, and this is immediately recognizable in his music. What he has done, and quite impressively, is create something that melds who he is and where he’s been into a work of art that is as individual as the man himself. This is a most meritorious accomplishment that is achieved by very few songwriters. Whereas his last release, Right On Time, was for the most part recognizably country, Nothing But the Truth is distinctively Steven Bruton.

Lyrically, Bruton is pragmatic as he delves into some of his truths about love, life and fate. Whether using aphorisms wryly, as in the ambling title track, or poetic imagery, as in the doleful, illusory tale unfurled in "When Love Finds You," he is intelligent and engaging. Bruton knows what many artists never learn: a song doesn’t have to be extraordinarily complex to be extraordinary. In reality, the opposite is almost always true. Think of a favorite song and the odds are fairly good that a simple melody is at its heart. Great songs are built on a solid melodic foundation and then framed with rhythm and the artist’s sentiment. If one makes the theme overly complex, the song becomes amusical. Frame it too ornately, and the melody gets buried.

Nothing But the Truth demonstrates what a talented songwriter can do when he applies the KISS principle. And that, my friends, is Nothing But the Truth.