Arrow Creek is Steve Madewell's sophomore effort and it's a picturesque portfolio of songcraft in the vein of Livingston Taylor and Richard Shindell. The disc's 14 songs spin a range of personal tales and introspection to longing for a simpler, bygone era.
His generational perception is both palpable and heartfelt; the view from his proverbial hill about the things we've lost as a society makes a statement.
And if you're not moved by tracks like "Wound Too Tight," well, then maybe you are.
Acoustic guitar-driven and lyrically-based, Madewell croons about family farms, scaling back as a society of consumers (the stunning "Is This What We Have Become") and the importance of being earnest... the actual act, not Oscar Wilde's book.
While acoustic-minded, not all the arrangements on Arrow Creek are sparse or plaintive; vocalist Caroline Quine offers lush vocals to two-part harmonies that soar and lilt on the set-closer "Driven," making the tune particularly memorable.
With decorative banjo, mandolin and bowed bass, Madewell's musings swell solidly. If you're a "Folk Alley" radio program fan, this should be on your short list.
Madewell performs in the Warehouse District this Thursday, August 7 as a part of Sparx in the City. You can learn more about the songwriter and his upcoming dates at http://www.madewellmusic.com.
From Cool Cleveland Managing Editor Peter Chakerian peterATcoolcleveland.com
Steve Madewell: Reviews
Steve Madewell's "Arrow Creek" features "meticulous songcraft". Music this quiet and peaceful doesn't usually make you think. Singer/songwriter Steve Madewell is definitely rooted in the late "60s-early-70s" generation of folk-pop crossover musicians such as Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and Don McLean. Madewell comes across as a born storyteller, but his tales are not necessarily his own. "Who Will Weep for Me", for instance, is about Chief Logan of the Mingo tribe, whose entire family was slaughtered by white men in a vicious massacre and sought vengeance; he would later become a champion for peace and eventually died alone and virtually unmourned. Unfortunately, too many Americans are unware of this story, the sacrifices made by the Native Americans. If U2 covered this, it'd be all over the charts. Madewell loves atmosphere; the songs here breathe real air, capturing the mood and the settings of each track. There is meticulous songcraft at work. The title cut is a lushly strummed portrait of scenic gorgeousness; through Madewell's delicate playing we can see through his eyes, the images that inspire every sublime chord. "Wrapped Inside Your Love" and "Climb" are moving soundtracks for daydreaming; the guitar playing is as sweet as a fruit's juices. Arrow Creek is what road trips are made for. I recently drove from Arizona to Oregon, and the songs here really caught the postcard pictures of spare deserts and high mountains.
Steve Madewell achieves inner peace through acoustic beauty on "Arrow Creek". Was there an album released last year which had the handmade intimacy of Steve Madewell's Arrow Creek? You can probably only count the number of such records on one hand. As far as acoustic folk and Adult Contemporary releases went, Madewell was in a space all his own. You see, too many musicians today record for the wrong reasons. Judging from the subtle charms of Arrow Creek, Madewell isn't trying to pack arenas; heck, he isn't even reaching for a Neil Young-sized gold rush. Instead, Madewell has bared his soul; Arrow Creek, then, is the lyrical and musical confessions of middle age, the thoughts and feelings of a man who is looking back on his life and to the future as well. This is a record that is both polished and raw. How is that? The production is sleek and attractive; you can hear nearly every string on his guitar, especially on the title track which is utterly hypnotic. At the same time, Madewell doesn't add any instruments that aren't necessary. If I was to compare its warm, back-to-basics textures, I would rank it with Rick Rubin's work with the late Johnny Cash. The only difference is that Rubin extracted Cash's inner demons, creating a haunted, sometimes depressing atmosphere; Madewell emphasizes beauty and calmness, achieving an inner peace that the listeners can easily feel.
What an odd coincidence to receive singer/songwriter Steve Madewell's Arrow Creek shortly after hearing the news about Dan Fogelberg's death. While I'm not exactly sure how much influence Fogelberg had on Madewell, they certainly share the same spirit. Madewell's music is story-driven unplugged soft rock, but unlike many male artists today his guitar playing actually evokes specific moods and colors the images of his lyrics. In other words, this isn't some bland strumming; I am moved as much by Madewell's flair with the strings as I am by his lyrics. Madewell has written some fairly powerful tunes on here. "Is This What We Have Become" is either a personal confession of regret or the sad transition of the baby-boomer generation from idealists to capitalists. Madewell's reflective, rain-soaked acoustic guitars add poignancy to what is already a hauntingly plaintive song. The dramatic tension in Madewell's guitar playing is palpable, especially on "Miami Wind" and "Meet Me in Saint Louis." On "Climb",Madewell strikes for an atmospheric, cinematic vibe and nails it perfectly. Musically and lyrically, there is much to savor on Arrow Creek.
Genre: 'Folk' - Release Date: '2007'
"Arrow Creek" from singer/songwriter Steve Madewell (http://www.madewellmusic.com) finds strength in its quietness; this is an album of soothing, spare unplugged arrangements but with words that carry substantial weight. It's not an introspective, depressing effort like other recent examples in this genre. Rather, Madewell is a throwback to the glory days of James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot, folk lyricists who had a knack for punchy, page-turning narratives.
"Who Will Weep for Me" details the life and death of Chief Logan of the Mingo American Indian tribe, whose family was murdered by frontiersmen in 1774. With its slow, dreamy guitars, "Who Will Weep for Me" sucks you right into its historical scope; the addition of a female vocalist, Caroline Quine, gives it added warmth. "Is This What We Have Become" is another sad tale; however, it's one that hits closer to home as Madewell laments the eroding values in American society and perhaps in himself, too.
There is plenty of beautiful music on this CD, enough to fill a couple of records, actually. The title cut offers a lush nighttime landscape and "Wrapped Inside Your Love" is as warm as a fireplace. Madewell leans toward to country territory but doesn't completely give in until "Wound Too Tight," which recalls vintage Willie Nelson. This is an outstanding acoustic folk album, packed with emotion and soul.
Singer/songwriter Steve Madewell uses dramatic textures to enhance song experiences To these ears, Steve Madewell is a painter as well as a musician. Too often in this genre, we give such an emphasis on the craft of songwriting that we neglect the creativity needed for the arrangements. Not so with Madewell. Here is an artist who spent as much time and effort into making every track on his album Arrow Creek sparkle like his words. Let's take a trip into Madewell's world, one that spans historical events and geographical territories. Carson James: You differ dramatically from many other singer/songwriters, past and present, by placing as much emphasis on sonic texture as your lyrics. Are you influenced by movie composers, too? If so, which ones? Steve Madewell: Well, a song is a story set to music. For me sonic texture has a tremendous impact on the power of the message in the lyrics. Arrow Creek is very sparse, and I was working to make the texture of the music that is there as dramatic as I could, especially for what I was working with, including emptiness. I can listen to some songs for years and never hear the lyrics because I can't get beyond the texture of the music. Speaking of beyond, the song "Beyond Where I Have Been" was a lyric that I liked, and I had a kind of Gospel thing in mind. Every recording I did sounded way too "march" like. So much so that I wouldn't even share a demo with Caroline Quine, who was helping me with the project. I was in the barn one night trying to work it down to the essence of the tune, and scotch played a big role in that effort. I recorded the version that is on the disc that night and sent it via Internet to Caroline. She really liked it and when I played it back it was like, "Who played that?"But it got to where I needed it to be. So, yes, texture is important - no, critical. I appreciate a good sound track. Some of my favorites include Hustle and Flow and T-Bone [Burnett] is at the top of my list. Eddie Vetter's Into The Wild is great and I'm Not There has a killer soundtrack. I think Once is not only a good soundtrack but that recording sequence does a great job depicting what that whole scene can be like, too. James: There's substance to your lyrics, but you write about a variety of topics beyond the formula of love found and lost, especially the plight of a Native American hero on "Who Will Weep for Me." Are these subjects personal to you in a deeper way that we, the listeners, are not aware of? Madewell: I hope they are just as deep to you as they are for me. An interesting thing about "Who Will Weep For M" is the connection that the story makes with the loss of a family farm, i.e. a way of life (and even the loss of the neighbor who is telling the story) and the loss of Logan's family and subsequently the loss of the Native American people's way of life. It is a song as much about suburban sprawl as it is anything. I have worked on many farms as a kid and young adult and that way of life is truly in decline. I heard a Native American address a land conservation conference, and he delivered an invocation in his native language which he interpreted. He asked the attendees to be blessed with their efforts to protect and preserve the rare and endangered plants and animals on Earth and to be blessed in their efforts to protect open space, but he also asked for someone to work to protect his people from extinction for in his tribal subset he was one of only 19 remaining. The two ideas fit together. And the Chief Logan story is one of many many heart-wrenching events that occurred in the early history of this country. As a general observation, people have no idea what has historically gone on around them. Consequently, they have a limited sense of where they live, limited value or reverence to their surroundings and inadvertently a diminished sense of self. James: "Is This What We Have Become"questions the shift in priorities of baby-boomers, namely the idealists of the late "60s". Do you feel that people have become increasingly materialistic over the past few decades? Why do you think that happened? Madewell: That song came out of the experience of having in a very short period of time several people from my past look me up and tell me how screwed up they were and one asked me to forgive them for something that happened 30 years ago. Leaving me thinking: what is up with that? People are looking for some sort of spirituality that takes them away from who they are and the richness of what they have lived. And this explains the growing trend in evangelical fundamentalism. The route that will wash away the sins of your past, but there is a price. And that is "hey baby it is my way or the highway" mantra of most fundamentalist religions, and "Oh, by the way, if you don't agree with my point of view, you are going to hell or maybe my religion is justified in killing you." I know a number of people who have jumped on this bandwagon that were certainly out there in their youth that simply clamped down on their children. I know what these folks were doing, and they seemed to live through it. They are productive and good people now. Yes, I have seen my share of casualties on the way, but isn't life full of them? Don't we truly learn from these experiences? I am not sure we learn anything from homogeneity. There is so much misdirected money spent on the effects, not the causes of social problems, child rearing, drug abuse, the environment, you name it. Really, it seems that there was a great deal of talk but limited commitment by us boomers to seek meaningful change. Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful exceptions, and the world is a better place for the efforts of those people who have worked to keep those ideas of the 60s and 70's alive, but all and all we just settled into being comfortable, fat, and consumed with wanting more. We know better, but history has demonstrated time and time again crisis creates change. We'll keep at it until we create a crisis. Also after 9/11 happened, I found myself walking around airports with people in uniform slinging semi-automatic weapons on their shoulders, and we began to live in the social self lock down. Hey man, I am not in some little country somewhere, I am in Cleveland, Ohio. Please don't get me started. James: The production and mixing on your album is stellar. How much time was put into this project to achieve that pristine audio quality? Madewell: Thank you very much. I spent a considerable amount of time with mic placement. There is really not much there, very open arrangements. I worked a great deal on the texture of the tunes. Trying to get the right openness. I was trying to get a sound like you are sitting in a stairwell playing the guitar. Michael Joly helped me with some suggestions and also did some modification on a couple of my mics. The recording was done with flat EQ, no compression, no effects going in at all. Several of Caroline's vocal tracts were built around pieces I emailed from Ohio to Colorado that she recorded and e-mailed back. She recorded everything dry and was using Pro Tools and an AT 4040 mic I think. I used bits and pieces from three different tracks of Billy Lestocks' slide mandolin piece to get the stereo field I wanted on "Climb", and I sort of did the same thing with the bowed bass and upright bass for "Is This What We Have Become." Everything else was very straightforward and recorded on a Korg D 1600 with Oktava mics and a couple art tube preamps. Afterwards, I added some reverb, multiband compression and sweetened up the EQ. Oh yes, Alex Bevan set the final master EQ, and I think he was using Digital Performer. James: How long have you been writing songs? How has your music evolved since then? Madewell: I wrote my first tunes when I was 14 or so and did some of my own material in high school rock bands. Really, I needed to make a living and was playing cover tunes for the past several decades until it was time to start writing songs again. I have been pretty much consumed with my conservation gig for the past 30 years and written volumes and volumes of proposal for environmental grants and such. I played in clubs and bars for many years because I needed the extra money and then also just to keep doing music. I was afraid if I quit gigging I would be done. In the past few years I stopped playing out over the winter months to give myself time to write songs and allow the music that has been brewing all these years to come out. In one way I guess the song ideas have evolved in my efforts to tell the story in a place or create a surrounding for it. I never thought about what that could do for the image of a song years ago. It's funny though as some of these tunes I hear as band pieces, but I don't have the time to do that right now, so I put the effort into finding a stripped down version that works.
This is a review I received from Belgium and Caroline was kind enough to have it translated!
Arrow Creek is the second CD of Steve Madewell after"Rivers and Trails" in 2002.Â His collection of 14 songs mostly talk about social situations and their evolution through different generations. He also sings about more personal experiences in life and love. All the original songs have meaningful lyrics and are accompanied by solid musicians. Steve Madewell's vocals are supported by great harmonies by singer Caroline Quine, whoÂ is featured as a soloist in the last song "Driven". Steve Madewell's lyrics display a high degree of social engagemnet. He said that he been working on the lyrics for "Arrow Creek" since 2003. In order to write original stories, it is important to experience life. The songs I remember from this album are "Is this what we have become", Miami Wind", Who will weep for me", "Arrow Creek",Â "Meet me in Saint Louis", "The Sky turned gray" and "Driven". This 2nd CD confirms the longevity of Steve Madewell in a world with plenty of singer songwriters. With a bit of luck a few souls can be added to that particular paradise.
"Arrow Creek" is de tweede CD van Steve Madewell na "Rivers and Trails"
uit 2002. Dit album is een verzameling van 14 liedjes die qua onderwerp
meestal gaan over sociale situaties en hoe deze geÃ«volueerd zijn doorheen
de verschillende generaties. In andere songs verhaalt hij over meer
persoonlijke belevenissen in leven en liefde. Alle zelfgeschreven nummers
zijn opgebouwd rond zinvolle teksten en een stevige instrumentatie. De
vocalen van Steve Madewell worden knap ondersteund door een goede harmony
vocals zangeres Caroline Quine, die overigens CD-afsluiter "Driven" zelf
mag inzingen. De teksten van Steve Madewell vertonen voornamelijk een hoge
graad van sociaal engagement. Hij zegt zelf al sinds 2003 bezig te zijn
met de nummers op "Arrow Creek". Om originele verhalen te blijven
schrijven moet je natuurlijk ook tussendoor nog wat levenservaringen
opdoen. De liedjes die ik onthouden heb van dit album zijn: "Is This What
We Have Become", "Miami Wind", "Who Will Weep For Me", "Arrow Creek",
"Meet Me In Saint Louis", "The Sky Turned Gray" en "Driven". Dit tweede
album zorgt voor een bevestiging dat Steve Madewell een blijvertje zal
worden in de toch al overvolle wereld van singer-songwriters. Mits wat
duwen kunnen ook in dat paradijs nog wel wat zieltjes bij.
A little hiking music, please, Mr. Madewell: My Cleveland
Published: Saturday, November 12, 2011, 1:15 PM
By Grant Segall
Steve Madewell runs Lake Metroparks and used to run the Geauga Park District. On the side, Madewell, 55, married with three grown children, sings folk music and plays guitar around town.
When you show visitors around town, what do they say?
"You've got to be kidding me. I didn't know the museums were incredible. I didn't know the lake was so big."
Do you play the old Cleveland trick of pretending to see Canada?
There are times you really can see Canada.
Now you're tricking me.
There are inversions over the lake. There has to be the right humidity and temperature. It forms like a lens. It will actually bend the light.
Seen other odd lake effects?
It's a trip to see waterspouts. And I've seen green flashes a couple times. When the sun goes down all of a sudden the lake is emerald green. Then it's gone.
We have the 12th-largest freshwater lake in the world. Just 40 years ago, the lake had global attention for its problems. Thanks to legislation, Lake Erie is recovering, and we've seen a tremendous economic rebuild for boating and fisheries.
But CEOs keep saying green laws are bad economics.
There's tremendous economic value in good use of resources. Forty years ago, property on Lake Erie had marginal value. Today it goes for substantial money.
Do any of your parks have good lake views?
Willowick's Lakefront Lodge. Sometimes there may be 70 people there watching the sunset.
Just parking at the lake for 15, 20 minutes can turn your day around. It reminds you that we're a small part of a much bigger system.
You can canoe the Grand River from Harpersfield in Ashtabula to our Hidden Valley Park. We have a series of takeouts. If you've got all day, you can go on from Hidden Valley to Mason's Landing in Perry Township. It's not unusual to see eagles.
We've documented over 100 rare and endangered plant and animal species. There's a tiny sedge associated with the sand bars at Veterans Park in Mentor. We've documented a number of nesting bird species that the state said didn't exist in Ohio, like the northern harrier – a marsh bird.
We've had a Kirtland's warbler for several days. That's one of the rarest birds in North America. It showed up in Chagrin River Park two, three days before we opened it.
Q: Kirtland like Kirtland, Ohio?
They're both named for Jared Kirtland, a great ornithologist and naturalist.
We bought the park from CEI. It has a huge transmission line and a municipal landfill. Some people in the conservation community wondered why we bothered with it. Suddenly we've got people from seven states showing up to see this bird. Sometimes you don't know what a diamond is until you look closely.
What makes Lake County shine?
Lake County is the smallest county in Ohio, but we have exceptionally rich and diverse natural resources. We have a fantastic nursery and winery region. Our agricultural output is one of the highest in Ohio. And we have fantastic steelhead fishing here.
Q: What's your biggest catch?
I don't keep track.
Do you throw them back?
Yes. It's not about the activity. It's about the place. We've got 22 miles of accessible stream frontage on the Grand and Chagrin and the major tributaries. We're working with the Museum of Natural History and its Trout Club and other partners to secure another section on the Grand River.
Do you hunt?
I do more hunting than fishing. I hunt deer out in Ashtabula. There aren't enough hunters to control the population.
Do the deer gobble up the parks?
Twenty years ago, we had large blankets of trillium in the valley floors. It is very difficult to find a patch of over 100 plants now.
Does Cleveland have good folk music?
There are great places to play. There are wonderful players. I really admire Paul Kovac for being true to his art. He's all about Americana: bluegrass and early country and western.
What about your own music?
It's my golf, my recreational outlet. I'm down at the Barking Spider now and then and different wineries in Ashtabula. I very rarely perform in Lake County. I try to keep church and state separated, so to speak.
A lot of songs I write have conservation themes. "Drake Hollow" is named for a section in Lake County, one of the river valleys used by the underground railroad. "In the Blink of an Eye" is about climate change.
Is Lake's climate changing already?
Yes. Precipitation in single storms has gone up. There's more runoff and erosion. The streambeds are changing. They're more pronounced. Global warming may actually result in more snow in Northeast Ohio because the lake doesn't freeze as quickly.
Strange encounters with park visitors?
One little kid was telling me how he was playing in the back yard with his cousin, and a great horned owl came down and attacked his fur hat. By God, on the evening news that night, they had that kid and his cousin. You learn you never say never.
Where do you catch a bite?
I enjoy Bass Lake Taverne in Chardon. Near the office in Concord, I go to Red Hawk Tavern and get the Jambalaya. Smoke is a little barbecue joint that just opened in Painesville. It has a killer barbecue brisket sandwich. My favorite Mexican food is carnitas at Don Tequila's in Mentor.
I like the hardware store in Painesville: Joughin. I don't think anyone can pronounce it. It's a hundred years old. I love places where you can have a personal interaction in a space with history.
Favorite chapters of Cleveland history?
I read some of the journal entries by Seth Pease as they were dividing the Western Reserve. Some swamp forests were impenetrable. Other forests were so tall and open, he could drive an oxcart through them. He killed seven rattlesnakes one day and kept the largest three for dinner.
Madewell makes more music
Songs with a message a forte for parks executive
Nature is the metaphor for the messages woven throughout Steve Madewell's "Arrow Creek," a new CD the singer-songwriter will celebrate Friday with a concert with his old friend Bob Hollister.
Madewell, a lifelong environmentalist, lives in Concord Township and has been performing professionally for nearly 40 years.
He grew up in a musical family in which everyone sang and played an instrument. Early memories include all of them singing along with his mom during family road trips to visit relatives in Tennessee.
In his day job as deputy director of Lake Metroparks, he's a high-powered executive. He writes grants, secures funds to preserve land and develops strategies to protect natural resources in the 26 parks that cover more than 7,500 Lake County acres.
The district has an almost $18 million annual operating budget.
He might have been able to make his living as a professional musician. He's received critical acclaim for his music on many occasions and has been the opening act for artists such as Leon Russell and Doc Watson.
Instead, Madewell has chosen to make a difference and live his convictions with his park administration job.
But, when he picks up his guitar, it's clear that his music has its roots in the protest songs of the '70s.
"I often look at life situations in the context of the outdoors," he says.
Water runs through many of the works. His first CD, "Rivers & Trails," had a fishing theme.
"Arrow Creek," is named after the creek in south central Montana where his friend Hollister makes his home.
"Bob, who lives off the grid in harmony with nature, will be performing with me on Friday and again on Saturday at the Donald Meyer Center in the Geauga Park District," Madewell said.
(That Saturday concert is at 7 p.m. at Big Creek Park in Chardon Township.)
Madewell, himself, lives on Big Creek, which almost claimed his home during the floods of July 2006. He and his family lived elsewhere until last spring, and work on his Fay Road home still is not complete.
Madewell's lyrics are arguably powerful, and the music no less so, although he says he just doesn't have the time to devote to becoming a really stellar guitar player.
Like the folk songs of the past, Madewell's music can be appreciated on several levels.
When he sings of "What we have become," the listener might at first think it's a lost relationship that's being mourned. But when "armed guards and body scanners" are what we have become, it's clear that "We've lost all touch. We've forgotten where we're from."
He likewise sings of a "bigger Desert Storm" in a world "driven by greed, fear and hate."
Madewell cares deeply about things he sees wrong with the world. But when he married his wife, Mary Jo, and they became parents, he knew a music career would be out of the question.
"Music helped me buy groceries when I was in college," he said. "But conservation was also a real calling for a serious cause."
But music is as natural as breath and in his soul. Amid his biology and zoology courses at Ohio's Miami University, he took classes in electronic music composition and vocal music to hone his talents.
Mid-life, his music's current influence, has moved him into a mode framed by events such as climate change and Hurricane Katrina.
"When the rain came down and the sky turned gray" were lyrics written while he was stuck in an airport watching the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
"Some things just come to you," he said. "It's this wonderful gift. You get up and the whole story and melody and everything is just there."
But others take longer.
And this CD, which was in the works at the time of last year's flood, was one of them.
"After the flood, we filled 35 Dumpsters with our stuff," he said. "People would come down our road and get out of their cars and break down crying in our driveway."
He's designated Hospice of the Western Reserve as the recipient of the $20 donation requested for Friday's concert.
"Hospice has been there for many of my friends, including the folks who lent us their house when we were flooded out," Madewell said. "This is an opportunity to thank them."
Steve Madewell and Bob Hollister.
7:30 p.m. Friday. (Wine and cheese reception with the musicians follows.)
Penitentiary Glen Reservation, 8668 Kirtland-Chardon Road, Kirtland.
$20 donation to Hospice of the Western Reserve.
Song Of The Year is as it says, a song writing competetion, that has several catogories. I submitted Wound Too Tight and was selected as a finalist for the month of August. Here is the link if you want to see the listing http://www.songoftheyear.com/winners/2007/082007.htm SONG WRITER Stephen Madewell NAME OF SONG Wound Too Tight Your lyrics have a playful, upbeat feel as you ramble about the woes of life. The music has a solid, traditional groove that suits this song well. Your title is a perfect fit that grabs the attention and wholly reflects the song. This is a very fun song. Your vocals are very good. They have consistency and a very nice sound. Your music is simple but good, with a nice, upbeat acoustic groove. The melodies are simple but do a good job of setting the mood for the song. Structure is perfect, with smooth flow, smart arrangement, and a rhythm and tempo that fits the song. The production is great... This may not be the most marketable song, but someone looking for a fun album track won't be able to pass this one up.
The vocals are melodic with charming color. The musical interpretation is clear, powerful with precise and memorable performances. The rhythm is resolute and adds impressive dynamics to the composition. The production is well conceived and balanced.
The key components of the composition are well balanced and expressive. The lyrics are natural and descriptive with a captivating melody that is very memorable. The melodic verse flows as a dynamic culmination into the distinctive chorus.
The overall ideas are presented in a professional manner and superbly done...
The natural feel and touching lyrical sentiment give this exceptional market potential.
Songwriter strums ecological message Parks administrator makes festival debut Barb Galbincea Plain Dealer Reporter The audience, many bearing fragrant and sloppy foil-wrapped delicacies, perched on elevated benches and swung their legs lazily to the melody flowing from Steve Madewell's acoustic guitar. A performer at the Little Mountain Folk Festival in Kirtland Hills over the weekend, Madewell, 48, has opened for the likes of Leon Russell and John Sebastian. And in October he will play for the Ashtabula Soil and Water Conservation District's annual banquet. Such a swing in venues is just part of being a part-time entertainer who also is the full-time deputy director of Lake Metroparks. Madewell, who joined the parks system about 16 years ago, performs regularly around Northeast Ohio either as a solo artist or with Al Bonnis in a band called Late as Usual. It was Madewell's first appearance at Little Mountain, with its multiple outdoor stages for scheduled entertainment as well as space for impromptu jam sessions in the shade of towering trees. Thousands of people attended the two-day event, in its 19th year, on the grounds of the Lake County History Center. In addition to music, the event featured crafts and food ranging from funnel cakes and deep-fried candy bars to buffalo burgers and â€œIrish nachos,â€ a concoction of french fries, cheddar cheese, bacon bits and scallions. Madewell, a Dayton native whose first paying gig was at a junior high-school classmate's party, grew up in a family of musicians. He now writes much of what he performs, including his first CD, "Rivers and Trails," finished last winter. The lyrics often reflect his passion for conservation, despair over global warming, acid rain, over-development and Americaâ€™s petrochemical dependency. "We just struggle to find somebody to blame," he said. "We don't embrace responsibility." Madewell is unsure how often audiences tune in to the environmental message in some of his songs. "I would hope there are some people motivated by it," he said. His "In the Blink of an Eye,"observes: "All the studies tell us this old climate's bound to change. Everyday we go outside and think it's all the same. But once we cross that threshold and the floodgates open wide, in the blink of an eye it will all pass by." His songs also are inspired by love, world events, Ohio history and even his own tendency to be chronically late. (It's no excuse; it's just a lifestyle, "Madewell"s business card proclaims.) His friends provide frequent fodder for lyrics. Consider "The Ballad of Henry Coerdt",an ode to a fishing buddy who Madewell said once pelted him with eggs from an abandoned bird's nest. "I told him I'd get even," he said, grinning. More information about Madewell and his music, including scheduled performances, is available at www.madewellmusic. com. To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org, 216-999-4185 Photo by SCOTTSHAW THEPLAINDEALER Steve Madewell, a singer-songwriter who also is deputy director of Lake Metroparks, warms up Sunday before a performance at the Little Mountain Folk Festival in Kirtland Hills.
Songs with exceptional stories such as this are hard to find in today's music markets. I can honestly say this is a fresh and uplifting song to hear for me. Rivers and Trails 2005 song of the year finalist for the Feburary submission Your lyrics are very well written in describing the changes we face in life and the things we miss from our past. The music has a sweet melody and excellent acoustic guitar playing. Your vocals are smooth and clean. Your music is original and creative, with some good hooks and changeups to liven it up. The structure is nice. This is a very good song with enormous potential. The melodies, lyrics, and structure provide a solid backbone. The Knot That Binds Your lyrics on this song pour out with emotion with a compelling story. The acoustic and vocals are performed peerlessly. The title is a perfect choice. This is a great song! Your vocals have strong emotional character. The instrumentation is superb and I love the guitar work. The melodies are clean and vibrant. The structure is perfect. Your production has excellent qualities throughout the entire mix. This is an outstanding song that I would think buyers would be attracted too! New Burlington Is Gone Your lyrics are strong and show good word usage. Your writing structure and phrasing are very good. The music has wonderful instrumentation and excellent musicianship with the acoustic playing. The title is a good fit. Your vocals are smooth and have excellent pitch and character. The musicianship and rhythm are very strong. The structure reflects the professionalism of all other aspects of the material. The production is clean and just needs a professional touch This is a wonderful story performed with compelling energy. The song might not place well in commercial country radio but could find a home in the rising Americana market.
Parks provide sunset serenade
Jonathan Tressler Staff Writer
Whether he knows it is another story, but area musician Steve Madewell will have background accompaniment when he plays his guitar and sings Sunday at West Woods Park in Russell Township.
"He'll have the insect orchestra backing him up," said Dan Best, chief naturalist for the Geauga Park District. "Yup, all the crickets and katydids will be playing in the background." The background, in this case will be a beaver dam at the confluence of Silver Creek and Pebble Brook, as Madewell will play The West Woods' Sunset Overlook from 7 to 8 p.m.
According to Nate Eppink, the district's spokesman, this is the first concert the overlook will have since its grand opening in November. "We had a dedication then with the three park commissioners and one of them made the comment that 'Gee, this would be a great place to have a concert,' " Eppink said. "So this idea has been floating around her for some time now."
Best said the district chose Madewell for the venue's debut concert because the themes and stories about which he sings fall right in line with the park district's mission. "The park district has always promoted the arts," Best said. "We like to showcase the fact that nature is a major influence in the arts, whether it's visual art, music or any other type of performance. "Well, having known Steve for at least the past 15 years or so, knowing his music and knowing that nature and the outdoors are so near and dear to his heart, we thought he'd be an ideal artist to put into this particular setting."
Best, a fellow guitarist, said he and Madewell have played together quite a bit through the years, and Best respects and admires Madewell's talent. "Steve's an outstanding vocalist and a darn good guitar player, too," Best said. Madewell said he has had a lot of practice at it. "It's something I've been doing for a long time," Madewell, 48, said. "I started when I was 12."
He said he picked it up shortly after moving with his family to West Milton, a small farming community just north of Dayton. "It was one of those things," Madewell said. "My folks always sang in church. My two older brothers were always listening to different kinds of music. "And moving away at that age, away from my group of friends, to such a rural area, I started playing guitar."
Musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Chicago, The Band, Eric Clapton and Merle Haggard were among Madewell's early influences, and he said those sounds and feelings still shape his own music. He said he also draws upon history and the natural landscape. "I believe who people are is largely the influence of their parents and family," he said. "And I also believe that where you come from and the natural landscape around you is a big influence as well."
He said his own emotions, past and present, come into play as he writes and composes. "When I was a youngster, the things I wrote about were love and relationships â€” the whole social scape, so to speak," he said. "At this stage of my life, I'm trying to assimilate where I'm at right now, all the history I've learned, the things, the landscapes I've experienced and where I've lived, the places I've been."
Just as Best said, and as the title of Madewell's debut compact disc, "Rivers and Trails," suggests, a good deal of his inspiration these days comes from the great outdoors. "It has a decidedly fishing/outdoor theme. There's no doubt about that," he said. Madewell said as far as identifying his own music with a specific genre, it fits somewhere in between blues and folk music. "With the music I write, I really strive to have it tell a story," he said "And folk and blues really lend themselves to that quite nicely."
He said it's not just stories he likes to tell, but stories with morals, even little history lessons. "Within that folk/blues genre, I try to do some other explaining, as well," he said. "For example, I think Ohio has a wonderfully rich history that's often not understood. "Also, largely not understood, I think, is how our landscape and natural resources have influenced our history. "So I kind of feel good every once in a while when I can take some of our history on as a theme in my music and pass that on to others."
The concert is free and open to the public. According to the park district's special events coordinator, Teresa Runion, the park hopes the success of the concert will breed more of the same. "We hope that this will be the first of many concerts there," she said. Runion said the Sunset Overlook can comfortably accommodate at least 40 people, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own seats â€” folding lawn chairs, etc. â€” to allow for additional seating.
According to the district, the overlook is one-tenth of a mile from The West Woods Nature Center, at the end of the Trout Lilly Trail. Eppink said if it rains, the show will go on inside the nature center. The West Woods is at 9465 Kinsman Road. For more information, call (440) 286-9516, or log on to www.geaugaparkdistrict.org.