JM Stevens – Nowhere to Land (review)


JM Stevens – Nowhere to Land (East Austin Recording)

Excellent second album from Texas songwriter

Simplicity is difficult to master in songwriting. Being able to say something in a conversational manner is a gift few artists do well.  Tom Petty was perhaps the greatest at this.  John Mellencamp also comes to mind.  Add Austin native JM Stevens to that list.  His sophomore album, Nowhere to Land, is full of gentle, yet infectious songs that are immediately relatable.  

The album starts with “Dry Creek.”  Fueled by a slinky beat and great guitar work, it certainly could be his “Covid song,” as he sings “as I lay in wait / for what is sure to come / uncertainty everywhere / got a hold on everyone.”  But that “dry creek was once water under the bridge.”

“Cherry Sunburst” might sound like a love song, but it’s in fact about falling in love with a guitar and “caressing your curves.”  Nice!  While “Someday I Will See You” deals with the chance of running into an old lover at various places.  The rhythm and wordplay are reminiscent of Jackson Browne’s best work.

Every one of us has stared at our phone wondering “Why Won’t You Call.”  I absolutely love the lines “I heard you sneakin in / Guess you forgot to WD40 the hinge.”  Stevens voice is particularly strong and clear on the harmony-laden “Nowhere to Land” which features the excellent words of wisdom “it’s hard to find the words to say / so I’m gonna do less looking and more listening today.”  We all could learn more from this.  

Each song has a little extra something to give it a boost.  Take “After the Storm,” another song about carrying on after tragedy, which features great National guitar and accordion, while there’s excellent pedal steel on “Makin’ the Rounds.” 

“With You in the Morning” has a soulful groove and is one of the strongest tracks here.  The album closes with a sentiment we all can relate to, time moving “Too Fast For Me.”  

Nowhere to Land features 10 songs that never overstay their welcome, yet their songs linger long after you’ve hit the stop button.  —Tony Peters