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Man On the Roof

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Album Review

Stephen Fretwell's 2007 album Man on the Roof sees the English singer/songwriter combining the earthy delivery of a Devils & Dust-era Bruce Springsteen with the gentle warmth, intimacy, and haunting nature of Jeff Buckley. It seems an impossible combination — or at least an improbable one — and hearing Fretwell pull it off with casual ease is enough to give any music fan pause. While still in his 20s during the writing and recording of this album, there is a weariness in Fretwell's voice on Man on the Roof that makes him sound older and wiser than his years, something that is both surprising and endearing. His music possesses a yearning, searching quality here, but it seems that Fretwell is less concerned than his musical contemporaries about finding his place in the world. Instead, he seems to be more dedicated to experiencing and enjoying life's journey; he possesses a sense of contentment that separates him from more restless singer/songwriters. The Fretwell captured on Man on the Roof is a hopeful dreamer, not a wistful one. There is one notable exception to Fretwell's happy seeker persona here: the ethereal, borderline transcendence of "The Scheme." One of the most austere tracks on the album (along with the gritty "Saturday"), "The Scheme" is dominated by a powerful, soulful agony that is at once wrenching and intoxicating. It is here that Fretwell most closely resembles Buckley, nearly reaching the same musical heights and revealing just how well he has perfected his craft. Even in songs that deal with heartache and fading love, Fretwell still reaches for a light in the darkness — or barring that, makes his own.


Born: 1981 in Scunthorpe, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Born in the town of Scunthorpe in 1981, English singer/songwriter Stephen Fretwell was introduced to the music of Bob Dylan at a young age. Using a borrowed guitar from his grandparents, the young artist began writing his own songs and made tapes for his family and friends. After an aborted attempt at university life -- he lasted two days -- Fretwell relocated to Manchester, where his clear northern voice, poetic lyrics, and melodic guitar work soon won him an audience. After landing a much sought-after...
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Man On the Roof, Stephen Fretwell
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