Steve Young (Country)
Steve Young has never fit comfortably into categories. He follows his own musical and spiritual quest, weaving together Southern roots with a wide experience of life, and creating new traditions in American music. "I want to keep moving toward the truth," he says, "toward more humane and spiritual things. To me, music is more than just a product - it is a reflection on humanity."
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Steve Young was born in Georgia and grew up in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas in a family which moved frequently in search of work. By the time he had completed high school in Beaumont, Texas, he was playing guitar and writing songs which incorporated influences of musicians like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and of course, Hank Williams.
By his late teens Young was back in Alabama, where he established some reputation on the local music scene. However, the wandering spirit soon took over again. He immersed himself briefly in the Greenwich Village folk scene, at a time when Bob Dylan and others were just being noticed.
Returning to Alabama, Steve found that "my New York folk-protest songs didn't fly in the South". Searching for more receptive audiences, he made short forays to California and other locations before moving to the West Coast in 1964.
In California, Young worked with musicians like Van Dyke Parks and Stephen Stills, at one point holding a day job as a mailman. A major-label record deal led to a short-lived stint with a psychedelic country-folk band, Stone Country.
Settling into a solo career, Steve Young became an integral part of the movement which defined the California country-rock sound. Appearing on Steve's 1969 classic album, Rock Salt & Nails were fellow pioneers like Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon and Gram Parsons.
Through twelve albums and countless live performances, Steve Young's music has remained fresh and aggressive, with a sense of deepening spirituality, and a consistent intellectual and artistic challenge, to himself and to his audience.
Many of the stars of the music industry have recorded Steve Young songs, and in some cases forged a career image around them. "Lonesome, Orn'ry & Mean", for example, became the signature tune for Waylon Jennings Hank Williams Jr-'s cover of "Montgomery In The Rain" remains a classic.
Certainly the most covered Steve Young song of all is "Seven Bridges Road", which has been recorded at various times by artists like Joan Baez, Rita Coolidge, lain Matthews, the Eagles, and many others.
While Steve Young songs have brought commercial success to others, Young has never been close enough to the mainstream to sustain his occasional brushes with stardom. He has been unwilling to accept the loss of artistic control that the industry expects of its stars, "I haven't been willing to do the things that it takes to fit into the mass market.
And while Steve has lived in country music towns like Nashville and Austin, and his songs have had a strong impact on the direction of country music, he rejects the country label for himself. "My songs contain blues, folk, rock, Celtic and gospel feels, Black and Native-American elements, and many other influences. My music is not just country, it's Southern music."
Steve Young is in many ways a cultural dynamic in himself. One-quarter Cherokee by birth, steeped in Baptist fundamentalism as a child, yet attracted to a Zen spirituality, the young man from the South with a nomadic spirit went on to create a unique form of American roots music with a truly global perspective.
Steve Young has literally toured the world. He has performed in many countries of Europe, in Australia and New Zealand, in Guam, in China and Mongolia, in East Africa and beyond. Wherever he has gone, he has filled the dual role of ambassador for American music and student of the cultures of others.
Young's live performances express the depth and power of his vision. He draws on his own songs, on Southern folk songs from varied traditions, on collaborations (such as "Angel of Lyon", co-written with Tom Russell), and on the best of contemporary songwriters such as J.D. Loudermilk, David Olney and others.
Lucinda Williams once remarked, "When I first saw Steve Young I was spellbound. As a writer, Steve is in a league with Dylan and Hank Williams. And he sings like an angel." English reviewer Drew Ratcliffe said of him, "If you're not moved by his voice, you ain't got no soul."
Steve Young's work continues to garner critical praise. Australia's Raven Records recently released a retrospective of his early career, and many of his past albums have been re-released on CD in North America and Europe.
His current CD, Switchblades of Love, was nominated for a 1995 Nashville Music Award for "Best Folk Album", along with Johnny Cash, Nanci Griffith, Pat Alger and Townes Van Zandt.
When not on tour, Steve divides his time between a home in Nashville and an apartment in east Los Angeles. When pressed, he will tell you that he still gravitates to LA., where he has maintained working relationships with West Coast musical luminaries such as J. Steven Soles, J.C. Crowley, Katy Moffaft, Van Dyke Parks and many others.
Steve Young continues to tour extensively in the U.S., Canada and Europe, as well as more distant portions of the globe. As a writer, a recording artist, and a live performer, he is an artist at the very peak of his powers - quite simply, not to be missed.
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