Although recorded in 2016, Eb Steward's debut album On The Way was only recently released, guaranteeing a fresh sound for new listeners.
Let's start with the product. It is a CD in a paper sleeve, so not a lot of room for information, but the artist does a good job covering the essentials, namely attribution. The cover features a tightly cropped closeup of Steward holding his acoustic guitar. On the back, another photograph puts the guitar dead center, exposing it completely. This may be of interest to gear heads, as Steward is known for playing special instruments.
A quotation on the back claims it contains "honest to goodness country music". While the native boot-scootin' crowd may be inclined to disagree, for fans of the brand of country exported by Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith, the assessment rings true. In fact, On The Way features songs from both kinds of music: country and western, with Wild Azaleas and Alligator being examples of the former and Ghost Train, Big Texas Moon and On The Way being examples of the latter.
Despite being recorded live with a full band in a professional studio, On The Way is really about the songwriting. Of the twelve songs, Steward penned words and music for ten.
At times, the prominence of the steel guitar overshadows, mostly because Steward delivers a strong vocal performance, especially on Alligator, and the lyrics are good enough to be heard clearly. However, the steel player definitely earns his keep on Solomon's Song.
My personal favorite is Long Walk, which I found myself humming.
For those unfamiliar with Eb Steward, On The Way presents an excellent introduction to this ascending artist. Wichita Falls is lucky to call him a local.
S. Ross Gohlke