Courtesy of Westside Steve Simmons
The lead singer and principal songwriter for the Easy Street Band, local singer-songwriter Westside Steve Simmons
has just issued his fourth solo album, Great Wishes and Small
Simmons, who's been doing a solo show at Put-In-Bay and around Ohio for the last 32 years, shows off his musical range on the album.
“The Sandy and the Beaver Canal” serves as a follow-up to his historical ballad “Battle of Lake Erie,” and the album also includes “The Ballad of Gretchen’s Lock,” a tune about an ill-fated attempt to link the Ohio and Erie Canals with the Ohio River.
Thanks to some slide guitar, the twangy “(They Call Her) the Evenstar” could pass as the Jayhawks, and with its husky vocals and contemplative lyrics, album closer “We Were There” sounds like something the late Warren Zevon might’ve written.
“That’s a byproduct of what I do,” Simmons says via phone when asked about his eclectic approach. “I have another record that just has standards like Sinatra songs on it. I was a theater major, and I write songs in one genre and then get sidelined by some other genre and will want to do that. I was almost afraid that two of this album’s songs sounded too similar. I wanted everything to be all over the board. I love Elvis Costello, and I look forward to every album of his because it’s a completely different musical world.”
Former Easy Street bandmate Donny Thompson mixed, engineered and co-produced the tunes. Guests include fiddle player Paulie Baker, violinist and fiddle player Sarah Wilfong, saxophonist Andy Hinkle and guitarist Bonam.
The downtime from the pandemic gave Simmons the time he needed to wrap up the recording process for the album, his first studio effort in seven years.
“Every year since 2013, which is when my last record came out, I have told people I would have a new album out next year,” says Simmons. “I had too many songs in my head and even left a handful of them on the cutting room floor. We started in December and then just finished during the spring of this year. Everyone has a digital studio in their home, so I record my tracks and send them to the other musicians, and they record their tracks. I was only in the same room with the sax player and one of the fiddlers.”
While many Northeast Ohio clubs currently aren't featuring live music because of coronavirus concerns, Simmons has still managed to find a few places to play. He performs on select days at the Keys
in Put-In-Bay and will play at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, at the Old Firehouse Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
“This is my 32nd year at the Bay, and this season has just sucked balls,” he says bluntly. “I have my stuff booked early, and they cancelled most of it up until this past weekend. I just started playing out there, and they’re still doing the socially distancing, so everything is weird.”
He also has a band that pays tribute to Southside Johnny. That group was slated to play a handful of dates, but those have been canceled.
Simmons says he’s hopeful the Easy Street Reunion will still take place in November at the Tangier
Fans can purchase the album by going to Simmons’ website
or simply showing up at a gig. He’s also just submitted it to digital outlets, so it should be streaming and available for download too.
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