By Donald Teplyske
Southern Albertan Steve Coffey has never appeared overtly concerned about what other folks think about his music: probably that disconnect is what partly separates artists from craftspeople—an artist must create what he does, others choose to create.
Over the course of five albums fronting the Lokels—the core of which appear throughout Paint Songs—Coffey has combined country, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll into a brilliant assemblage. Paint Songs is his first collection to appear under his own name, and is available only in limited quantities as a compact disc or vinyl album within an art book featuring photographs of associated paintings and lyrics. While his music is available from his website, as near as I can determine only the 2012 release Bovine World Rail is available via iTunes with Twirlin’ Girl Boogie also at eMusic.
Such illustrates the unconventional nature of Steve Coffey.
The songs of Paint Songs reflect Coffey’s uncompromising nature. Inspired by the natural forces of his prairie home as well as recent European travel, this collection is a natural progression of the course Coffey has been traversing in the dozen or so years I’ve been listening. “Seeing Reflection,” featuring rich clarinet from Cedric Blary, stands as the artist’s manifesto: “With a mission and a direction, to the end of the planet, of the world and he’s seeing his reflection in the water of a creek—he has direction and a strong voice to speak.”
Collaborating with long-time partners Dave Bauer (guitars and banjo) and Russ Baker (guitars) among others, Coffey has crafted a soundtrack of inspiration and insight. From the “Ghost Farmers Dancing” in his periphery, to the hardships faced from the “Dust in the Bowl,” (a bit of Boiled in Lead meets Ian Tyson) Coffey utilizes his art (“I paint pictures, play music, write songs,” he has said) to communicate the profound simplicity which surrounds us. Incorporating field recordings, Paint Songs is exceptional: the lyrics and music inspired the images, the paintings impacted the songs, the artist is affected by the experience, and the listener and viewer interprets the totality of the creation.