Delicate Steve | After Hours Review
By Griff Stevens
Delicate Steve is guitarist Steve Marion, who has spent the better part of the last decade establishing himself as one of the game’s most innovative and widely revered players. Marion has recorded with Paul Simon, been sampled by Kanye West, toured in the Black Keys, and released four critically acclaimed albums of guitar-centered instrumental music. In addition to his guitar skills, he has a strong reputation as a songwriter, producer, and performer in the modern indie landscape. After Hours is Delicate Steve’s latest instrumental album. The ten-song set is an easygoing collection of simple tunes focused on the joys of plugging in and playing. The songs are pleasant and breezy, pairing vintage soul grooves with wordless melodies, and Marion’s production work is subtle and restrained. In another first, Marion teamed up with outside musicians on the record, bringing in renowned bassist Shahzad Ismaily (Yoko Ono, Marc Ribot) and famed Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco (David Byrne, Atoms For Peace) to help flesh out the arrangements and stretch his sonic boundaries.
“Playing in a Band” sets the album’s tone with a relaxed summer feel and an expressive melody. Marion’s 1966 Fender Stratocaster sings the melody with emotional bends and a pleasant swanky tone. The song is simple and never builds to anything heavy; instead, Marion focuses on the vibe and keeping the soul feeling alive. However, Marion does shape his tone for the different sections of the melody, and the addition of acoustic guitar in the rhythm track is a nice touch.
Marion taps into his bluesy hues on “Looking Glass.” With layered percussion, the central motif is a repeating figure that is catchy and melodic. Marion leaves listeners relaxed for the duration of the song; subtle counterpoint swims in the background to add more depth for those with more in-focus listening habits. The song maintains its background music appeal overall, though, never pushing for a greater diversity of depth.
After Hours is the guitarist/composer presenting a very laidback set, some may appreciate the half-hour of cool, straightforward guitar explorations. The group of songs maintains a similar feel and intensity. Marion does a good job adding various sounds, like Fender Rhodes, muted electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and saxophone for more colors around his lead guitar. In general, though, more focus on songwriting and forms with varying textures would take this project to deeper waters.
Release Date: July 8, 2022