Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Scott Warren, a forty-five year old musician that recently took to the studio to record eleven new tracks that he has been writing for over three decades. Thus, one could most certainly argue that the album, entitled ‘A Way of Life,’ has been much longer in the making than most of its indie counterparts. In order to fulfill his vision, Warren also teamed up with a new vocalist on each track, all of which he collaborated with from all around the world. Is ‘A Way of Life’ worth adding to your music collection? Let’s dig in and find out.
‘A Way of Life’ was released last week on September 16, so it’s easily accessible via platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, and so on. Right off the bat, I want to pose a compelling question that I always have with artists like Warren: does his collaboration work to his advantage or disadvantage? I’ll often get artists across my desk that collaborate around the world via the internet instead of in a physical studio together. More often than not, this is to their detriment. The idea is intriguing, but the execution usually falls flat.
Fortunately, I think Warren has pulled it off surprisingly well. For the most part, these tunes feel organic enough to not make one question whether or not they were recorded in the same room. As I delve into each of these tracks, I apologize to the vocalists for not crediting them. Warren hasn’t credited them as feature performers on the track listings, so I have no idea who recorded what. (Something he should probably remedy.)
‘Peace of Mind’ opens up the album with a male vocalist that has some serious edge to his presentation. There are a few laudable elements of the track. The instrumentation is well executed, and in particular, the thunderous percussion performance is stellar. Warren’s songwriting is solid, too, and ‘Peace of Mind’ is one of those tracks that squares itself on the whole “inspirational anthemic rock’ type style. It’s suiting to Warren.
‘All On Your Own’ would likely align with a late-in-career Eagles track. Seriously, it sounds like something straight out of ‘The Long Run.’ In some ways, the track eclipses its predecessor. It’s a sharp rocker that’s foot-stomping and catchy. The male vocalist is very good, but he is very under-mixed, and would have been served better by a tighter mixing job. ‘The Other Side,’ the following track, then explores some of the ‘soft rock’ elements of the album with its first female vocalist. Again, her vocal mix has gone a bit awry level-wise, but it’s a decent enough performance overall.
I suspect that the varying quality of vocal production has something to do with Warren working with artists around the world. Quality control can be hard when you’re essentially outsourcing your vocal sections. One of the finer tracks in this regard, however, is ‘The Train.’ This funky rocker is mixed perfectly, and the lead vocals really kick the track into gear. (That, and the infectious brass sections.)
‘Your Sweet Stuff,’ the album’s second female-fronted track, handles itself much better than the record’s first. The woman’s vocals on this track are much better mixed. Furthermore, the actual track offers some more diversity than ‘The Other Side.’ The searing lead guitar solo is incredible, and the hard-hitting atmosphere of the track is akin to perhaps, The Black Keys’ ‘Gotta Get Away,’ if one were to align a contemporary parallel. Warren’s songwriting style is very pop-oriented, especially on tracks like this. What it lacks in depth, though, it does make up in intensity and pop sensibility.
‘Just Between You And Me’ does offer a bit more depth – that’s worth noting. It’s likely one of Warren’s more insightful compositions. It’s still essentially a ballad, but it’s a well-penned ballad that doesn’t feel inundated by tropes. ‘In Between’ follows, and one could argue it’s the finest track of the collection. There’s some clear Beatles influence here and it’s absolutely lovely. ‘In Between’ is the album’s most interesting track and its most organic.
‘What A Bash (Oh What Fun Tonight)’ is the only track of the album that does fully suffer the main issue of having a disconnect between the vocalist and the rest of the production. The female vocalist on the tune doesn’t seem to be in step with the music, and the beat feels awkwardly rushed underneath her. It’s a complex beat, though, and I’m glad Warren did attempt the track. It just needs some further refinement.
‘Everlasting Love’ is a soulful rock ballad that plays with synthesized brass sections to great effect. On the flip side, ‘In The Night’ toys with electronic instrumentation. It’s great that Warren experiments sonically in these final tracks. The finale, which is also the title track, walks a border between classic rock and country rock, perhaps never falling into either or fully embracing either. It’s an interesting finale, though, and one worth exploring.
‘A Way of Life’ is a flawed album. There are sections where the vocal production has noticeably gone awry, likely due to long-distance collaboration. For the most part, however, the album is an exceptional insight into Warren’s lifelong pursuit of songwriting. Tracks like ‘The Train,’ ‘Your Sweet Stuff,’ and ‘In Between’ are highlights, and worth checking out. The full album has something to offer each listener, though, and I’d recommend spinning it in its entirety if you’re a fan of lighthearted indie rock with classic elements.