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STEVE CONN: Steve Conn

By Derk Richardson

Not Really Records; P.O. Box 681, Mount Juliet, TN 37122; www.steveconn.com.

Steve Conn, a Louisiana-bred musician who lives near Nashville these days, recorded two albums prior to this self-titled gem but earned his keep primarily as a keyboard-playing accompanist for Bonnie Raitt, the Dixie Chicks, and others. This CD showcases him as a songwriter and singer worthy of mention in the same breath with his far more famous peers.

Nearly all of these 12 original songs would fit snugly into a radio playlist or record collection built around the likes of such accessibly funky artists as Raitt or Boz Scaggs. Indeed, Conn's gentle, philosophical love songs "Eliana" and "Comfort Me" would be perfect vehicles for Raitt. But Conn delivers those tunes--as well as the simultaneously smooth and snarling blues track "Somebody Gotta Make a Move" and the New Orleans–flavored R&B-rock of the political opener, "If I Were King" ("I'd be Newt's nightmare and Martin's dream")--quite memorably in his own gospel-inflected voice.

His rolling piano (acoustic and electric) and sweeping Hammond B3 organ establish the instrumental foundation for a tight band that features Kenny Vaughan on electric guitar and is augmented by artists like Darrell Scott on mandolin and Sonny Landreth, an ace on slide guitar. Such honest and deeply rooted music is becoming relatively marginal to the mainstream nowadays, which makes a treasure like Conn that much more delightful to discover.

Contributing Editor Derk Richardson writes about popular culture for Yoga Journal the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the Web site SFGate (www.sfgate.com).


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