Steve Connelly, Guitar Hero for Hire.
Yet having spent the past decade-plus helping other musicians realize their sonic ambitions, Steve Connelly the gifted singer/songwriter has been underexposed, and therefore underappreciated. Vance Borland, as an artist benefitting from Connelly's talents, thought it might be time to redress this situation. While working long hours together on Borland's "Live Like We Believe" CD, Borland asked Connelly about his plans, or the lack thereof, for the gifted producer's own music. Connelly mentioned the possibility of working with fellow Ditchflower Brian Merrill at his Studio B in St. Petersburg. But when it came right down to it, Connelly had the gear and the space conveniently at his fingertips. He just needed someone to engineer and co-produce. Borland forced the issue, offering to man the controls himself to allow Connelly to spend some time on the artist's side of the control room window.
The song turned out to be an old Headlights standard, "Crowded In Here," with its comfortable, rootsy lope and lyrics that deal, fittingly, with Connelly's lifelong love affair with the guitar. Add a dash of gospel-tinged background vocals courtesy of Borland's friend, Madelyn Adams, and a handful of barn-burning guitar breaks, and the album was officially off and running.
Connelly and Borland stuck with the "No Plan" plan. Adams contributed more background vocals throughout the CD, and along the way Connelly invited in two other A-list drummers, Marc Dupuy and Bryan Thompson, to help out. Connelly played and sang the rest, bouncing ideas back and forth with Borland, as the song list emerged track by track. Some, like "Crowded," are longstanding Connelly chestnuts that had never been recorded. Elsewhere, Borland adds his cryptic lyrical touch to two of the newer songs ("Every Monster" and "The End of David Watts"). "Judgement Day" updates an earlier Headlights recording that had won the band a trip to Willie Nelson's recording studio back in 1986. Still other tracks were built from scratch in the studio ("Every Monster"), and the album-closing ballad, "Inside Today," is seemingly channeled directly from Connelly's soul through the wires of the old piano at the back of his studio.
Finally, the public can hear the results for themselves. Let's hope Connelly doesn't make us wait quite so long for the next release.