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PAUL STEPHENSON - Mother Nature’s Rules 

PAUL STEPHENSON - Mother Nature’s Rules 
Stockfisch Records SFR35740822 

This is another release of (with one exception) entirely self penned, lightly poetic songs from this singer-songwriter/guitarist presented in a gentle, tender and intimate style, embracing elements of pop, folk and country, and supported by some very fine arrangements involving mandola, bass, accordion, keyboards, marimba, flute, saxophone and percussion.

Citing his musical ‘heroes’ as The Beatles, James Taylor and Sting, and Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Ralph McTell as other influences, Paul grew up in the North East (hence the two folky place pieces here about the extraordinarily named village of Pity Me and ‘new town’ Peterlee). He set off for “Amsterdam and Europe in 1979 to make a living of sorts from music” where he has since played both solo and in varying group formats. Now resident in France, he recently attracted the aural interest of Gunter Pauler at Stockfisch Records. This is the very well-produced outcome.

The lyrics mainly express introspective reflections of personal thoughts, emotions and life experiences of relationships and the wider human condition, nature and the elapse of time, with some satisfying metaphorical overtones and turns of phrase. Paul’s voice and intonation are generally sound but there are places where the lyrics sound a little undersung and/or there’s a palpable, slightly uncertain, sense of hesitancy and fragility. Some of the backing harmonies, too, are a tad trite. These minor issues do detract slightly from a lush production and sophisticated soundscapes which feature some nicely judged soloing from Paul’s accompanists and, notably, stylish tone-rich work on fretless bass (Antoine Pülz, Hans-Jörg Maucksch).

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.