For anyone to successfully step out of the shadow of one of the iconic figures in American popular song is a rare thing. To do so and return to the familiar shadow later, with their own career in full swing and successfully diversified, is a rare thing.
While Little Steven will forever be associated with his boss (The Boss), the fact that he was one of the key architects of the Jersey Shore sound, has a series of solid solo albums to his name, and carved out an acting career on the side, as well as being in one of the most famous backing bands in rock and roll, is not to be overlooked. While the wall of sound rock and roll, blue-collar ethic, and even some of the vocals, sound eerily similar to his boss, Mr Van Zandt’s latest solo offering is good natured, soaked in soul influences and is indelibly stamped with his trademark charisma.
At its heart, Soulfire is goodtime rock and roll record. There’s no deep and intense brooding on the human condition, or any revolutionary insights into Little Steven’s world view. Mr Van Zandt is a rock and roll guitar player, and he’s here to play crowd pleasing rock and roll to his fans. And you know something? That’s great, because far too many albums these days are released as some sort of ‘message’ or ‘statement’, rather than just being a group of songs that fans of the act in question will probably like. Is it going to change the world? Probably not. Will it establish itself as the favourite album of anyone who purchases it? Perhaps, to a few people. Is it an album to turn when you just want to enjoy some American rock and roll? Sure!
For a man with as extensive a CV as Little Steven, Soulfire is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s a soulful rock and roll album in the Jersey Shore sound tradition. If you’ve not heard any of his solo stuff in the past, but like the stuff you’ve heard him play on, it’s well worth investigating. If you’re a fan already, then you’ll be pleased to hear that he remains in fine form.