BY VICTOR TOMICZEK
I was three years out of high school getting right fed up and anxious when I first met Steven Fifield. We had both committed to spending a term educating ourselves in a Swedish university. We didn’t really learn too much Swedish, but I think we did learn a bit about playing, writing and listening to music. At the very least, we learned to drink cheap whiskey straight out the bottle real smooth-like.
Steven is an everyman poet, one whose husky whisper evokes the complicated hardships suffered by supposedly simple people. Sometimes those hardships are overcome, sometimes not. They are characters for the listener, experiences for the author. Charlie Pride is there with Elvis; I’ve seen the autograph that gramma keeps in that shoebox, the melody that ma loves so well.
Has he amalgamated Bob Dylan, John Hartford and Mississippi John Hurt, or is he the product of their passing, the logical indeterminate of lifetimes gone by?
His intensity is never lacking. Song intros often turn into ten minute improvisations. Sometimes stories take him for a tell. He has never plodded his way through a performance, so far as I’ve seen. And Stevie’s hosted his share of gigs, jams, 2am drop-ins, dorm room love-ins, dinner party sing-ins, ma and pa anniversary slash retirement parties and honest to goodness, never could plan it, wish we recorded it sessions of all type and manner.
His words, though sometimes tough to decipher for first-time listeners, are aching truth. His guitar playing simple purity: no apologies no false moves. There’s a heavy thumb beating that confession out of you.
So long as “people in their sixties listen to me in my twenties and people in their twenties listen to me in my sixties,” Stevie will be playing. Regardless, he’ll be playing.
The salt in Steve’s sweat is the blood of the Bras d’Or. He breathes in Cape Breton and exhales its stern reproach and sensitive quiescence. When he leaves, he’s never away too long; this is his home, his history and his future. I won’t ignore my friendship or admiration: Long Live Steven Fifield.