Stevie Cornell reintroduces himself (finally) with his endearingly rootsy, self-titled comeback album — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
A singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist whose roots go back to the vibrant East Bay punk scene of the 1970s, Cornell captures an unrestrained sense of wonder and hope on his sweetly sincere, llong-overdue new release, maintaining an indomitable musical warmth even as his poignant lyricism couples heartbreak and loss with reflection and acceptance.
“This album release marks my official return to music after a Rip Van Winkle 20 years away,” Cornell says. “Styles have changed and I’ve changed too, but I’m still all about the song. Rather than rely on loops and beats, I wrote all of these songs on paper at a real piano, like some old guy in a tiny Brill Building office full of heartache and cigarette smoke. I produced each track according to its own wishes, and so I’ve ended up with an album that wanders all across the landscape of my entire musical past, which, as you can tell by listening, is a pretty broad piece of geography! I filled the tracks with plenty of ear candy (I play a lot of instruments ) but the songs work just as well when I perform them solo.”
Cornell’s rich musical story begins with ’70s legends The Young Adults, a popular live band who never released any vinyl. Despite being in the middle of the early punk scene, they went against the grain by sporting cheesy leisure suits and long hair, and dared to play slow songs as well as more standard punk anthems like Shut Your Fucking Mouth. The band’s members went on to play in iconic bands like Dead Kennedys and Wire Train.
In the ’80s, Stevie was a founding member of The Movie Stars, a top San Francisco Americana group who released two critically acclaimed albums, but never found commercial success in the exploding grunge era. After a stint on the road with John Wesley Harding in the early ’90s, he played pedal steel with the great retro country band Red Meat before decamping to a tiny village in Vermont to raise a family.
Returning to California after many years, he settled in Santa Rosa, where he is kicking off the second half of his musical career with his eponymous album. His eclectic approach to music is a result of the many twists and turns his journey has taken. But through it all he’s stayed true to the idea that you can say it all in a tight three-minute song.