It’s no secret that making money from music is a failed venture. Even the biggest bands in the world are stuck grinding from city to city, dreading the inevitable ding from an increasingly fickle 15-minute timer.
For artists like Kevin Stebner, a man making music for an incredibly small subset of the few people left buying records, the goal ultimately becomes not losing money.
Stebner, a Calgary based artist, has always let inspiration determine the direction of his songs. As a part of Stalwart Sons, he offered an interesting mix of Lightfoot and gruff, prairie rock. He’s published poems, recorded 8-bit symphonies and plays in one of the city’s best kept secrets (Extra Happy Ghost!!!). He’s immersed himself in the art community, but I’d say Cold Water is his most personal effort to date.
These songs are stripped down, skeletons of the melodies we expect to hear really. Stebner presents himself honestly, warts and all, unconcerned how you chose to judge the work. Cold Water offers a tough exterior, protection from the cold winds and unbearable temperatures as much as from another broken heart or melancholy, but the end results have a surprising warmth and pride. This record isn’t about hits, or even hooks; it’s about atmosphere and the kind of emotion people tuck away in journals or bury deep inside hoping it never gets out.
Cold Water is released on tape - on Bart Records - and really, it’s better for it. Stebner knows most people won’t take the time to listen, but for the few hundred people that appreciate what he’s doing, his twisted love letter to his province and the frozen shackles Alberta puts on the ankles of its residents is vital. It’s filled with tape hiss, gruff vocals and odd chords, but it’s also full of heart. As is often the case when you put your heart and soul into something, the mistakes and missteps are more than offset by the successes.
MP3:: K. Stebner - Proud Faces
MP3:: K. Stebner - Our Little Fires