Hidden Objects ~ Album Review 5/11/17

"It's always cool to find artists that have different sides to their talent, the type that legitimately work in multiple styles with equal aplomb. Singer/songwriter Little Steve-O is one of those multi-faceted folks who shifts gears with ease. As a singer and harmonica player, he plays the blues 200 nights a year in and around his Ohio home base and has been a finalist in the prestigious International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. On those other 100-some nights, he's a soulful and capable singer/songwriter with a tight acoustic rock sound and lyrical chops that burn like the Cuyahoga River back in ‘69. His latest release is Hidden Objects, a 12-song set that drives a little harder than most songwriter records do. His lighter moments sound like a Midwestern Cat Stevens raised in Cleveland and he vibes toward the edgier sides of Springsteen and Mellencamp when he cranks things up.

Our man Steve-O may be known for blues music, but is also a straight-up no-bs rock singer when he wants to be. The record is based in acoustic guitars but this is not folk music. The opening track, “Magician,” is tough mid-tempo rock and hits hard from the first line of lyrics. In “A Simple Gathering,” he uses lighter grooves and melodies to tell hard stories to great effect, a masterful tactic that's a big part of his style. His grooves, in general, are super strong and all the tracks have deep, human-feeling pockets.

Honestly, describing this music is difficult because it uses all the primordial ingredients of rock and roll, contains no big stylistic surprises or production shocks, yet doesn't much sound like anyone else. You can hear echoes of the best pop/rock from the 70s to the 90s, but Steve-O’s songwriting voice is strong and personal enough to stand all those familiar elements on their collective ear and deliver an album that is both compelling and identifiable. Making this sort of hammer-and-nails rock and roll without being derivative is no small challenge but Little Steve-O makes it look like cake.

Little Steve-O’s combination of focused songwriting and an all-pro voice is pretty much unbeatable and it would do this old critic’s heart good to see Hidden Objects find the larger audience it deserves. Other high points include “Elizabeth Beckman,” “Half A Circle,” and “Time For Beautiful,” but you'll not find a bad song anywhere on this effort. The songs have a plain spoken directness that pairs up well with Steve-O’s melodic sense. It makes them quite accessible and fans of the best guitar-based songwriters out there from Tom Petty to Jason Isbell would do well to get this album into their headphones. Want to know why you need to support independent music? Because sometimes you get an album like this."

-by M. O'Cull (Music Journalist)

Hidden Objects ~ Album Review 5/14/17

Singer-songwriter Little Steve-O (Steven V. Fine) who plays harmonica and acoustic guitar is a former member of an award winning Blues duo who made it to the International Blues Competition (IBC) in Memphis, placing as a semi-finalist in 2011 and a finalist in 2015. With well over 200 shows per year Steve performs 4 to 5 nights a week throughout the Akron, Canton, and Cleveland area. Through the years, Steve has performed and recorded with several bands and has now released his 12 track solo album, entitled “Hidden Objects”.

This may sound like hype, but I don’t give a shit when it comes to my personal opinion, so I’ll shout it now before we even start. The quicker you know which side of the fence I stand on, the better it will be for both of us – “This album is a true classic. Little Steve-O’s lyrics are poetically beautiful, his voice exhibits raw emotion, and the songs are soulful.” Okay, now let’s do it.
Unlike so many pop stars that are shoved down our throats at every turn, I’ve never heard one of Steve’s songs on the radio. That’s a travesty! Honestly, people, what is going on with the dumbing down of America when it comes to music? This man has real talent. Something you can sink your teeth into.
Every song on this album is a gem. And they’re all different. His style is eclectic, which I love – one moment he can be an acoustic-blues version of the gritty Joe Bonamassa, the next he is the soulful voice of Van Morrison, and then he can be the lyrical heart of Damien Rice or infuse the heartland rock of John Cougar Mellancamp. His gritty, soulful performances truly touch every emotion.
Little Steve-O is at his best when he lets the emotion of his songwriting become outsized and dramatic, like in the opening track “Magician”. Right from this opening song you immediately know that this is a special album. In fact it’s so good you can’t wait to hear what’s next.
“A Simple Gathering” and “Your Virtual Being”, are pretty ordinary singer songwriter songs…by Little Steve-O standards, not by anyone else’s, where they would be recognized as standouts. Now listen to “Half A Circle” and forget the fact that the lyrics are amazing all by themselves, his soaring vocals and exquisite production make this a standout effort that oozes with class and raw energy.
“Hidden Objects” is packed with the kind of music that wraps itself calmly around your heart and squeezes, instilling warmth and a sense of well-being. Undoubtedly Little Steve-O is at his most impressive when moves out of his comfort zone, when he pushes his voice and music beyond its easy listening boundaries, which thankfully happens often.

Grouped into this list of songs you will also find “The Talk Behind Their Smiles” and “Room 6132”. This album possesses a magic that sets Steve and his music apart from anything played on the airwaves. Little Steve-O’s biggest problem will be to follow this up with a better album, but for now, just enjoy this great artist!

-by Rick Jamm (Jamsphere Magazine)

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