The Official Blog of Portland's Songwriter of the Year

Music Connection Magazine

I woke this morning to find that Music Connection Magazine had published a lovely piece about me and my show at Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. It’s short and sweet but, as the first bit of press in 2011, I’m honored to receive the attention and the kind words.

You can read the entire piece by clicking on the image below — it will expand to reveal a larger version of the article. Enjoy the write-up and spread the word.

Thank you all.

Tyler Stenson in Music Connection Magazine - 01/01/2011

Tyler Stenson in Music Connection Magazine - 01/01/2011

TYLER STENSON
Hotel Café
Los Angeles, CA

By Dean Moore

MATERIAL:
Nashville by way of Portland singer-songwriter Tyler Stenson describes his music as “elegant folk,” and that’s accurate. He’s a storyteller first and foremost, wrangling poetic lyrics that highlight his continuing understanding of the world around him both past and present. His Western roots still provide a pervading theme, as he comes to grips with his migration east (“Leave Oregon”) and asks the folks he left behind to support the changes he was compelled to make in his life (“We Grow”). There are a few times when the literate delivery of the message feels a bit labored (Stenson cites Cormac McCarthy as an influence), but the message is always sincere, and the Americana style of the music is just right.

MUSICIANSHIP:
Stenson seamlessly moves from guitar, to piano, to guitar and harmonica together. He looks particularly at home on the guitar, as one song calls for some dexterous fingerpicking, another utilizes pickless strumming, and a later tune has him intensely but tastefully bending strings to punctuate the dramatic effect of the lyrics. Vocally, Stenson’s voice still has a modern rock accent, but overall he’s left any Daughtry-esque leanings behind for a more graceful approach that reminds much more of folk royalty like Taylor and Browne. Stenson also proves that his harmonica is not a prop when he tears into songs like “Best Laid Plans” with some ferocious, adept harp blowing.

PERFORMANCE:
Stenson’s touring experience has obviously served him well. Especially when it’s a one-man show, holding an audience largely unfamiliar with you or your material is tough, but Stenson did an admirable job. The use of the dynamics is critical in an acoustic setting, and Stenson showed he’s a master of contrasting quiet, intimate verse whispers with gripping, soaring choruses. His stage presence was witty and conversational: he said he wrote one up-tempo song because “I don’t have a ton of upbeat songs in my repertoire, and the ones that are are about death.” A pot dropped in the kitchen at the end of a slower tune, and Stenson praised the timing of the “cymbal player” in the back. In the middle of another song, he told us that “My brother hates this next verse.”

SUMMARY:
The audience appeared to have walked away from Stenson’s set having warmly bought into the depth and classic feel of his sincerely told story-songs. They also appreciated his easy manner on stage, and the conviction and boldness with which he plays and sings is engaging as well. Not every single lyric resonates on first listen, but the ones that do – lines like “Can’t help thinking if you believe in God, why can’t you believe in me?” – do in a big, big way.

Dean Moore
Music Connection Magazine
January 2011 Edition
Page 55

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