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One Step Closer

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Album Review

While the String Cheese Incident has become known for its on-stage jamming, as captured on its three regular live albums (A String Cheese Incident Live, Carnival '99, and It's About Time), and its dozens of discount-priced, limited-edition concert transcriptions issued through the On the Road series, for its studio albums the band has tended to turn to outside producers, looking for a decisive voice to push them in new directions. Hence, Steve Berlin on Outside Inside and Youth on Untying the Not both presented different visions of what the String Cheese Incident could sound like, and Malcolm Burn (whose previous clients include Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, and the Neville Brothers) presents yet another on One Step Closer. One might as easily say, however, that the group chooses a producer to help it facilitate a current sense of itself and its material, and Burn's function here seems to have been similar to what John Simon attempted with the Band on Music From Big Pink. Indeed, the group borrowed a house in the Rockies near its Boulder, CO, base and recorded there, just as the Band did in Woodstock, NY, back in the '60s. And, as with the Band, the point seems to have been to create a repertoire of material. This is not an album of jamming — no song runs longer than five-minutes-and-twenty-seconds — or solos, though there are moments when you can hear the group chomping at the bit to take off, usually just near the end of a track. This is an album of songs, and those songs have been carefully doled out among the five bandmembers, who get two or three writing credits each. Of course, some writers are better than others, especially as lyricists, and so there are some other names on the credits to beef up the words. Nashville songwriter Jim Lauderdale contributes to Billy Nershi's "Big Compromise" (a song that seems to be about band interactions) and Keith Moseley's "Brand New Start"; John Perry Barlow, best known for his work with the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, is part of Michael Kang's "Give Me the Love" and the group-composed "Drive"; and the Dead's other main lyricist, Robert Hunter, brings in a typically elliptical set of words for Kyle Hollingsworth's "45th of November." The result is a strong body of compositions that range from heartfelt love songs to fairly esoteric reflections, usually performed as cohesive shuffles in a jam band groove. No doubt they will be explored and extended further in concert (indeed, some already have been), but it's nice to have these compact studio versions as a jumping-off point. (The package also includes a DVD containing a half-hour "making of" documentary featuring interviews and studio footage.)

Customer Reviews


Not the usual string cheese but still a couple good songs


Formed: 1993 in Boulder, CO

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The bluegrass-based jam band the String Cheese Incident is comprised of mandolinist/violinist Michael Kang, guitarist Bill Nershi, bassist Keith Moseley, pianist Kyle Hollingsworth, and percussionists Jason Hann and Michael Travis. Formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 1993, the group's self-described "sacrilegious mix of bluegrass, calypso, salsa, Afro-pop, funk, rock, and jazz" quickly built up a following on the local club circuit, and within six months of their formation they earned an invitation to...
Full Bio
One Step Closer, The String Cheese Incident
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