Review: Stephen Inglis – Learning You By Heart

Stephen Inglis is a grammy-nominated Hawaiian Slack key guitarist, but “natural talent” sounds more accurate to me. Inglis, whose new record Learning You By Heart was released earlier this Summer, sings and plays guitar really well, as this video clearly shows.



Critics have been tossing around Grateful Dead comparisons (which makes sense because he used to play with Bill Kreutzmann). However, I find Stephen to have cleaner and crisper sound quality on record. His lyrics are the right amount of familiar, but stray away from the usual Dead and Dylan ripoffs. As I mentioned before, Stephen sings sweetly, with a light country gruff I’d call “Nashville Skyline Lite.”

“Blind With Haste” is a solid opener for an album that stays strong throughout it’s thirteen-track brew. The title track is a favorite, with cliche train lines to boot. Is it sappy? Yes. Is it lovely? Of course, with the right amount of twang on the side.

The whole album deals with growing older, true love between friends, and recalling the glory days of ‘ol youth. And the lyrics stay fresh, with only a few dabs of “that sounds oddly familiar.” “Maria Luisa” is tacky, sexy, and cheesy with all the best intentions. Inglis really lets his character show on the track, popping out of the song with a colorful caricature of himself.

Classic Americana usually comes up short with lots of repetition and trails of “been there before.” Yet, Stephen Inglis puts his individual voice into each song he pens. He doesn’t sell you a paltry sweep of plastic face and copycat blues. He sings it the only way he can. Truthfully.

Learning You By Heart is a good album that showcases an artist with lots of talent. Plain. Simple. Finger-pickin’ good.

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