The Saskatoon-based roots singer / songwriter Steph Cameron arrived on the scene like a bracing gust of fresh musical air with her 2014 debut record Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, receiving unanimously enthusiastic reviews. “This is a monumental, brilliant album… heralds the crowning of a bright new talent,” declared PopMatters in calling it the #1 Canadian album of 2014. No Depression termed it “a stunning debut,” while Exclaim! noted that “Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady delights from start to finish. Steph Cameron is the real deal.” The record also made the coveted longlist for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize in 2015. Now, Cameron is set to follow up with her sophomore record, Daybreak Over Jackson Street, due out April 14 via Pheromone Recordings. Look for music scribes to again reach for superlatives to describe Daybreak Over Jackson Street as Steph’s new album navigates subtle changes in stylistic terrain. If the debut felt as if it emerged fully-formed from the bohemian streets of Greenwich Village circa 1963, then the extra maturity of this album gives it more of an early ‘70s Laurel or Topanga Canyon atmosphere.
Of the album’s first single “Young And Living Free” Cameron says, “Time has shown me that our generations circle around like a spinning wheel – connecting me to my mother, to her mother and so on. The song is a reflection on time as a dream without ending, where our stories are spun and gathered around us, and where the nature of our spirits, across our generations, are cut from the same cloth.” Like her debut, Daybreak Over Jackson Street was recorded at elite Toronto studio Revolution Recording with producer Joe Dunphy. It retains the sparse template of her first record – one voice, one guitar, both recorded in intimate fashion and to tape. Cameron explains there was one change in the recording process this time around. “I asked that we move into a smaller room at Revolution. Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady was recorded in a very large room, where the sound could develop for miles. In the smaller room I had a stronger presence. The idea was to create a record that sounds as though the songwriter is in the room with the listener. We created a very warm, intimate record that does justice to the truly personal stories captured by these songs.”
For Daybreak Over Jackson Street, Cameron had the luxury of being able to choose from a far larger collection of songs than with the debut. “The songs on this record were selected for their depth and maturity. As I develop my craft, storytelling increasingly becomes an opportunity for me to empathize with and express love for struggling people.”
The result is a collection of songs that showcase Cameron’s storytelling songwriting style, one that works in perfect tandem with the sparse production style chosen. The themes they explore of love, loss and finding joy when times are rough are universal. What truly rings clear is the authenticity of the human experience that the characters she sings about have been through. Many of these new songs feature a more mature Cameron looking back upon earlier turbulent times. “As I get a bit older I’m able to recall my youth from a different perspective. Many of these songs draw their content from the life and relationships I had in my youth; to people and places, particularly East Vancouver.” She describes “Daybreak Over Jackson Street” as a song “about living in an impoverished neighbourhood in an urban setting. That song acknowledges some of the elements of life in a slum.” A similar locale, East Vancouver, permeates “Richard,” a haunting ode to a troubled comrade left behind – ‘a hotel is a real sad place for living’.
Steph Cameron: That’s What Love Is
Having spent some time living in The Kootenays, the great outdoors appears in Cameron’s “That’s What Love Is,” a lovely and gentle tune featuring a circular guitar pattern and such atmospheric imagery as ‘late at night when the coyotes call, the dogs whimper and the leaves fall’. Then there is the fast and breezy “Little Blue Bird,” one ‘sitting in the snow, staring at the stars dreaming of the railroad cars’.
The enthusiastic response to Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady led Cameron into extensive touring, playing the folk festival circuit and, memorably, opening up for Buffy Sainte-Marie. Look for Cameron to hit the road again supporting Daybreak Over Jackson Street in the near future.
Steph Cameron: That’s What Love Is Lyrics: