Review­: Steven Tyler – 'We’re All Somebody From Somewhere'

When it comes to Aerosmith, I quite literally wear my heart on my sleeve. By heart I mean wings, Aerosmith wings to be precise, proudly sporting their iconic logo on my upper arm for three decades now. Tattoos might be for life, but that’s okay, since Aerosmith are also for life. As well as being a lifelong fan, I can also take the blinkers off and view any output without rose tinted glasses, ’Get A Grip’ was three songs too long. ’Just Push Play’ is not as bad as some people make out, and ‘Music From Another Dimension’ has a decent album in there somewhere. Therefore when the “C word” was uttered when Steven Tyler’s debut solo album was first mentioned, I was a little apprehensive. Images of Steven Tyler and an album full of generic “bro­country” trucks and chicks songs ran riot in my head, but thankfully those fears were quickly dispelled upon the first listen. There are less than six degrees of separation between country and rock music today. Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert are two performers around the current Country scene that have hints of rock creeping into their sound (Church even had Halestorm open for him on a recent arena tour). The Cadillac Three can play Download Festival as well as appearing on Country bills back home. Hell, even Carrie Underwood used ‘Highway To Hell’ as her intro music on tour earlier this year, the same Ms Underwood who described recording with Aerosmith as a bucket list moment. Turn down the twang on many Country tracks today, and you are left with classic American rock. Likewise, many tracks on ‘We’re All Somebody From Somewhere’ could be out­takes from numerous Aerosmith albums. The album opens with ‘My Own Worst Enemy’. Co-­written by Steven Tyler and esteemed Nashville songwriters Brad and Brett Warren, this is classic Tyler. A quiet and understated vocal performance that leads into an apologetic tale of remorse and pain, with the protagonist taking the blame for his own actions, rather than blaming amongst others “Jesus, mama.. and Seagrams whiskey”. Now,this is “classic country” songwriting with its echoes of the Cash, Nelson, Haggard, and Kristofferson style outlaw country, which often sought redemption. Stripped back and raw, this a courageous way to start the album, and the end result is perhaps the strongest track here. The song begins to fade out around the three minute mark, before the guitar comes wailing back in with a scorching solo that would sound incredible with Joe F’kin Perry (get better soon Joe) and the boys behind it. Tyler sees the song out with some bloodstained ivories on his daddy’s baby grand, and I believe that on his current US tour this song takes the place of ‘Home Tonight’ in leading into ‘Dream On’.
The title track is up next. Co-­written with Jaren Johnston from The Cadillac Three, it has a dirty groove to it, and benefits from the horn section in the background… sassy, sweaty, and again, the Demon of Screamin’ delivers an understated performance. ’Hold On (Won’t Let Go)’ could be a distant cousin to ‘Voodoo Medicine Man’ from the classic ‘Pump’ album. Steven Tyler uses some effects on his vocals to add a swampy sound, and any time he breaks out the harmonica is fine by me. ’Only Heaven’ is another track that echoes classic Aerosmith, almost the perfect power ballad. Almost, because Aerosmith already made the perfect power ballad with ‘Cryin’’. These songs are perfect examples of the fine line between rock and country. Are they country? Nope. Do they get the head bobbing and the feet tapping? Yep. So really, what does it matter what tags we put on the music? ‘It Ain’t Easy’ has some traditional country guitar twang on it, but it’s never overpowering, and it merely enhances what is a beautiful song. ’Love Is Your Name’ entered all the relevant country charts when it was released as a single last year, but it’s more hippy than country, I’d say. It’s easy, laid back vibe perhaps lends more to the west coast seventies scene than Nashville, and it features a soaring, uplifting chorus, that helps elevate the song somewhere else. ’Somebody New’ and ‘Sweet Louisiana’ are perhaps the closest that the album gets to what people might perceive modern country to sound like. Banjo picking in the background, alongside some lap guitar and accordion. Co-­written alongside über hit songwriter, Hillary Lindsey, they’re light, fluffy, and inoffensive. ‘I Make My Own Sunshine’ is the weakest track on the album. The “Everything is wonderful, everything is great” lyrics don’t work for me, and the song is forgettable. ‘The Good,The Bad,The Ugly & Me’ sees the Warren brothers again share songwriting credits with Steven Tyler on a basic rock ‘n’ roll track that highlights the ‘less is more’ adage. Classic guitar, drums, and vocals. Enough said really. ’Red,White & You’ sees the cheese­ometer crashing through the roof, as Steven Tyler recreates the ideal American summer anthem, name checking Tom Petty, American girls, the fourth of July, cut-off jeans, and good ol’ boys. It’s unashamedly American, but then again so is he, so who are we uptight Brits with bad teeth to judge someone proud of their country and not afraid to show it? The album winds down with the one­/two of ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’ and ‘Piece Of My Heart’. The former is a slowed down, grittier version of the classic, without the sheen and production of the 1989 original, and is sublime. The latter features The Loving Mary Band (Steven Tyler’s touring band) along for the ride, and the female backing vocals add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to Tyler’s tribute to his beloved Janis Joplin.
So there you have it. It only took Steven Victor Tallarico five decades to produce his debut solo album, and some feathers might be ruffled along the way (belonging to the old school rock vanguard, as well as country purists), but ‘We’re All Somebody From Somewhere’ has some incredible tracks on it. I think Wayne Campbell summed it up best when he asked “Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said…’If you label me you negate me’?” ‘We’re All Somebody from Somewhere’ is released 15th July Review: Dave Stott
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