Album Review: Stephen Fearing – The Unconquerable Past

Stephen Fearing has lead a whirlwind life that has brought him back to his roots. Hailing originally from Vancouver in Canada, before moving as a child to grow up in Dublin, moving the United States to immerse himself in the music industry that existed there and then finally returning home to Vancouver once more. This whistle-stop tour of the world as well as the disjointed nature of his formative years have all fed into his work and created a man with a lifetime to pour into his every song.

Since returning to Canada in 1984 he has been hailed as one of the finest songwriters in Canada and over the course of his now thirteen albums, has extended his audience both nationally and internationally. This year see’s the date of release for the humble thirteenth solo album, a folk-country curiosity shop called The Unconquerable Past. It’s an album rife with questions, answers and matters of the heart. It’s beautiful juxtaposition to the commanding nature that Fearing has over the stage when he treads the board. His energy and passion shine through in his every action but the spirit in which his work is made is what sets him so far apart from his peers. Many people make the music that they themselves want to hear while others might let pieces of themselves ebb away to create the music that people want to hear within a popular construct. Fearing has mastered the art of doing both without compromising himself or his art. As he opens up his heart once again with The Unconquerable Past you can hear what Fearing has focussed on his whole musical life, he is putting his whole heart on the line to take you on the journey of a lifetime as the audience. His design is to let you escape into his head for a while, to forget your own troubles and instead find something in the world to warm you.

A masterful storyteller, Fearing charms the English language like some might charm snakes; encouraging them to bend and meander to his whim, finding passion and focus where there was none before. His evocative style of songwriting is the cornerstone of his work, his tender folk and country melodies sitting atop his words, complimenting them rather than overpowering them. The combinations he brings to life are a heady concoction that spans from the emotional beauty of songs like Marie to the raging, swing styles of Christine. Everything about his latest album is so carefully placed and constructed, each song leading you on like turning a page in a book. Songs like Christine with their hard hitting jazz piano and hearty swing atmosphere are starkly juxtaposed against the melodic and tender likes of Emigrant Song. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Fearing has a supple and versatile voice that gives him the edge when it comes to portraying his emotions through his voice alone; his soft but powerful vocals are etched with passion and when he decides to open up and really let rip you find he is suited to do that as well.

The Unconquerable Past is something that we all face, our every mistake or missed opportunity will always be there looming after us but it’s albums like this that remind you that there are so many things more important in the future that in the past. Fearing doesn’t look back, he looks forward and as he does so he brings a whole new depth of restless curiosity to his work that keeps you fidgeting on the edge of your seat to see where he is headed next.


(S) Solo (SF & TS) Stephen Fearing & The Sentimentals (MC Hansen: guitar, vocals, Nikolaj Wolf: bass, vocals & Jacob Chano: drums, vocals)


Thu 23 Sheffield Café No. 9 (S)

Fri 24 Southport House Concert, Grateful Fred’s Roots & Acoustic Nights (S)

Sun 26 Exeter Exeter Phoenix (S)

Mon 27 Sutton PoyntzDorset Mission Hall (S)

Wed 29 London The Moth Club, Hackney (SF & TS) AmericanaFest UK Showcase


Sat 1 EccleshallStaffs. The Royal Oak (S) co-headline with Kyshona

Mon 3 Birmingham Kitchen Garden Café (SF & TS)

Tue 4 London Green Note (SF & TS)

Wed 5 Leicester The Musician (SF & TS)

Thu 6 Manchester Gullivers (SF & TS)

Fri 7 Bewdley, Worcs. St George’s Hall (SF & TS)

Sat 8 HepworthW. Yorks. Hepworth Village Hall (SF & TS)

Sun 9 Teddington Landmark Arts Centre (SF & TS)

Thu 13 EskildstrupDK Folk in the Henhouse (S)

Fri 14 NorderstedtDE Music Star (SF & TS)

Sat 15 LeusdenNL Fort 33 / In The Woods (SF & TS)

Mon 17 EindhovenNL Meneer Frits (SF & TS)

Tue 18 LeidenNL Qbus / Muziekhuis (SF & TS)


Review by Joe Knipe


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