Steve March is a storyteller. He tells stories in novels, short stories, columns for this paper and he tells stories in song.
If you know March you might know that he writes music, has produced an album and has just released his second CD, “Twister.”
“I’m just a songwriter and a vocalist,” says March of his latest CD. “The really sophisticated part comes from the musicians.”
March is being modest. Although, the musicians playing on this album are, he says, considered some of the best in the state. And together with March they create a sound that will take you back to the days of Hank Williams Sr.
It’s pure American storytelling combined with an atmosphere-infused honky tonk sound.
“Steve writes from a place of honest observation and lived experience,” says the CD’s co-producer Robert Donnan.
Donnan says this is “old school country music,” that “harkens back to the Hank Williams school of music.”
And it does. And fans of that sound will not be disappointed in this collection of Americana storytelling in song.
If you don’t know March you might gain a little insight through this album. He sees the world through eyes that have lived on the ground, with working folks who have lived hard and maybe even played a little harder.
“The music comes out of the life of the people,” he says. “That’s true country. Rooted in the red clay fields of the South. The struggles of ordinary people.”
March grew up the son of a journalist, a single mom who raised two boys. He says the song “Lullabye” is homage to the many single moms who died in the infamous Hamlet fire back in the 1990s, leaving their children behind.
Working in a chicken processing plant in Hamlet, N.C., workers were trapped inside a locked building when a fire broke out. The incident was etched into March’s psyche and comes out in this song.
“That struck me on such a deep level,” says March of the Hamlet fire, “because I was raised by a single mom. I used to think when my mom went on to work what would happen to me if she didn’t come back.”
That’s the soul of an artist. That’s March’s soul. He feels it and he conveys it either on page or in song.
This album is, he explains, about “devastation and loss, but it’s also about the celebration of life.”
The album is a thread, he says. In a day when digital music asks listeners to hear just one song, March says “Twister” is meant to be absorbed as an entire album, stories strung together to illustrate a larger picture.
It is life laid out in song. It is his many experiences wrapped up into music that touches on that old school country, blues and even gospel.
“I really grew up with singing being a part of my life,” he says.
He grew up around the South. In Tennessee March says everyone in the neighborhood played music and sang. It was a place where folks would gather on the front porch and sing gospel songs.
March says he became a writer first, a songwriter second. He found his voice on the pages of short stories and novels such as “Catbird,” a story about a musician.
He continues to express his voice each Sunday in The Daily Advance and now this; a musical tribute to life lived hard.
“To me the song is just another form of literature,” he says.
And so he is telling you the story of what Dannon says are the gritty lives of the people March has seen during his life.
The CD opens with “A Six Pack Away From Trouble.” The song immediately throws you into that old Southern honky-tonk with visions of Hank Williams Sr., playing his guitar amidst a crowd of rowdy fans shrouded in cigarette smoke and the malted aroma of stale beer in the air.
It’s a vision that March says is right on the money. Williams is one of his musical heroes and the album’s primary producer, Wes Lachot, says March, was shooting for that very imagery and sound.
“This album is stripped down to the bare essentials,” says Dannon. The album is, he continues, all about the music and the storytelling in its most essential element.
March says it was also recorded as a live session. That fact gives it a very raw sensibility that is hard to find in the highly digitized music Nashville produces today.
The album took March six years to create. He says between writing novels and short stories, teaching at Elizabeth City State University, raising two boys and even writing columns, things have to go at a slower pace.
But there’s nothing wrong with slow. Letting something simmer over time seems to bring out all of the right flavors and March’s recipe for storytelling and music coupled with a slower pace seems to have done the job.
You can find “Twister” at Page After Page Bookstore in Elizabeth City.