Steve Baskin | Love Is Hard: Exclusive Premiere

The Atlanta singer-songwriter keeps it real on his soulful new single.

Steve Baskin is in it for the long haul in his soulful and sincere new single Love Is Hard — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.

Arriving just in time for Valentine’s Day, the first preview and album-opening title track of the Atlanta singer-songwriter and guitarist’s upcoming LP, Love Is Hard isn’t some rose-coloured fantasy of an endless honeymoon. Rather, it’s a mature, clear-eyed portrait of the ups and downs of any long-term relationship — and the countless, undeniable benefits that come from sticking around instead of cutting and running.

“The idea of the song Love Is Hard,” Baskin says, “is that it’s a lot easier to walk away from a relationship than to actually stay and make it work long-term. The falling-in-love part happens fast, but it’s the hard part that happens over the next 20 or 30 years that is the most satisfying and worthwhile.”

Set against a late ’70s-style backdrop that suggests members of The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Eagles and Fleetwood Mac channeling Al Green at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios in Memphis, the track is swathed in blankets of Hammond organ, sweetened with horns and lush backup vocals, and punctuated by stinging B.B. King-inspired guitar licks. Musically and lyrically, it delivers a statement of devotion — to love, to humanity, and to a musical journey that seems to get sweeter with each subsequent release.

Indeed, Baskin and his band The Fourteens’ album is the kind of sophisticated, deliberate statement that comes only with decades of hard-earned experience — at life, love and music. “Having been around the block a few times, Love Is Hard is a set of songs that brings a grownup perspective on love and relationships from just about every angle,” Baskin says. “It deals with marriage, family, community, losing a close friend, and our divided world.”

Musically, Love Is Hard dabbles in California country, blues, folk and roots rock, but at its core the record is built on a solid foundation of Baskin’s signature blue-eyed Americana soul, showcased by album highlights such as I Believe In You, Do What You Wanna Do, And You Want War and the title track. On these songs, Baskin brought in Atlanta’s FunkCake Horns to provide a potent blast of brass that’s as indebted to classic Memphis and Philly soul as it is to contemporaries JJ Grey & Mofro, Leon Bridges, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Which all makes sense when you learn that a young Baskin cut his teeth on the road backing legendary soul artists such as Sam & Dave’s Sam Moore, Percy Sledge, Carla Thomas and The Shirelles.

“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, when I was really still just a kid, I was in this band in South Georgia, and it was one of the only good reading bands, so when all those old soul and R&B artists would come through, we were the band they would call. They’d pick us up in Valdosta, Ga., and we’d go to Jacksonville or Atlanta or wherever the gigs were, and be their backing band. Which made for a pretty solid musical education.”

A key ingredient that propels Love Is Hard is the chemistry between Baskin and his band: Guitarist Roger Brainard, backing vocalist Mary Gill, her husband drummer Geoff Gill, bassist Mark Sobus, and pedal-steel wizard Mark van Allen, whose credits include Guy Clark, Warren Haynes, Zac Brown, Vassar Clements, Sugarland, Indigo Girls and more. “We have so much fun playing together,” Baskin says. “It’s a good core group of people—some really different people who come from different places — but everybody loves each other, and there’s this super-happy energy when we play.”

Baskin’s new record — his fifth — unfolds as a thematic arc. We Thought We Were Grown evokes Eagles circa 1974’s On The Border. It’s a ballad that looks back knowingly on the naivete of nascent love from the perspective of a couple that’s now been together for more years than they haven’t. And You Want War — a soulful, southern-fried swamp rocker with a riff worthy of Mountain’s Leslie West — explores the political divide in American families. And The One Percent serves up some New Riders Of The Purple Sage-style twang while reminding us that — genetically speaking — we all have 99 percent more in common than we don’t.

The folky, singer-songwriter turns of Girl From Indiana and Give A Damn About Today tip their hat to Gold-era Ryan Adams, the former a tribute to a departed friend who succumbed to depression, and the latter a carpe-diem anthem inspired by 9/11. Devoted to You is an autobiographical Stones / Faces-channeling roots rocker that recounts the struggles — and eventual joys — of unexpectedly becoming a young parent. And there’s even a breezy rendition of ’60s jangle-pop classic Pleasant Valley Sunday, a cover of Baskin’s childhood favorites The Monkees.

Check out Love Is Hard above, hear more from Steve Baskin below, and get up to speed on his website, Instagram and Facebook.


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