Watching Leonard Cohen’s Bird on A Wire documentary gave me the courage to finally post about Adam Haworth Stephens. One of the Two Gallants, I know he’s the best songwriter going even if I can’t explain why. He writes some of the best lines ever, but I readily admit he writes lots I don’t get. Cohen said he never expected anyone to get every line, nor does he think it’s necessary. A song or poem is about the whole experience, he said, not a line here or there.
And what an experience an Adam Haworth Stephens song is. Naked. raw, personal; songs you will return to for years and years and as you age they’ll grow along with you. The best comparison lyrically is Paul Westerberg, but the interplay between guitar, voice and harmonica is original and unprecedented. (I’m now a harmonica fan for the first time.)
The playlist above is three songs from his Vile Affections EP, which was sold mostly at his post-Gallants solo concerts and is wrongly out of print. Another from the EP, which I think refers to anti-sodomy laws, is on thespillblog earworms this week (where the response to it has been quite enthusiastic!)
Stephens has a full-length solo album, We Live On Cliffs, out now but its too poppy and for some inexplicable reason he pockets the harmonica. There is leagues of Stephens depths to plumb with Two Gallants, though, and best to start either with their studio debut, The Throes, or the rough and primitive-style ‘Demos’.