Everywhere You’ve Been is Steve Almaas’s latest solo album. It’s being released by the Lonesome Whippoorwill label on March 5 on 12” vinyl, LP, CD, as a digital download and via streaming platforms.
“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” is the title of a famous 1937 short story by the American writer Delmore Schwartz. For Almaas, in dreams began his new album. In February 2019, Steve was on a plane to his hometown of Minneapolis to play a gig with the Twin Cities’ original punk rock band, the Suicide Commandos, which he’d co–founded in 1975.
“The plane was rather empty and I had a row to myself,” he recalls. “I took a little nap, woke up – and in my head was a full set of lyrics that I very quickly entered in my iPad.” That fleeting vision became “Cigarettes, Coffee or You,” a light–hearted number with a touch of Western swing. “Then I lay down, took another nap, woke up again – and had another full set of lyrics in my head!” With an instantly memorable melody and sweeping pedal steel guitar lines, and Steve created the album’s closing track, “The One Thing I Cannot Do.”
Everywhere You’ve Been is Steve Almaas’s sixth solo album; he made two more along the way in partnership with Ali Smith, and in 2017 the Suicide Commandos reunited for Time Bomb. There are no bad records in the bunch, but his latest release is an especially accomplished work of roots–pop songcraft performed with a strong supporting cast. The personnel include longtime Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier; and guitarist Kenny Vaughan, from the ranks of Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. On pedal steel, nylon–string and electric guitars is another old friend, Jon Graboff, whose credits include session and road work with (among many others) Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, and Norah Jones. Mitch Easter contributes lead guitar to two songs and Gary Louris of The Jayhawks provides a high lonesome harmony on another.
Produced by the artist, Everywhere You’ve Been was tracked by Mario Viele at Cowboy Technical Services Recording Rig (Brooklyn NY) and mixed by Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium Recordings (Kernersville NC). For the Brooklyn sessions in July 2019, Steve played guitar, ukulele, bass, and baritone guitar alongside drummer TJ Maiani, with Mark Sidgwick on the Fender Bass and Tony Garner on stand-up. Charly Roth played keyboards and Paul Scher played sax. Most lead vocals were recorded in the Almaas home studio, an Airstream trailer parked behind his house in Saugerties NY.
“The most long-distance contribution was from Jon Graboff in Santa Fe,” Steve recalls. “But we have such a long and positive working relationship that I can speak in the most abstract terms and Jon will totally get it.
“For ‘The Way I Treated You,’ in my mind I was trying to write a Roger Miller song, like the way his lyrics sound like they’re spilling out of his mouth. And his records often had the nylon–string lead guitar, so I asked Jon to use it on the track.” It’s a confessional lyric set to a jaunty arrangement: “The lyrics are not a diary – my writing isn’t strictly autobiographical – but there’s a deep truth to that song. It’s not about anyone specific but there’s a big truth in there.”
In July 2019, Kenny Vaughan came to neighboring Kingston NY with Marty Stuart to open for Steve Miller. “I asked if there was any way he could get time off that same day to lay down some guitar parts. I only had him for like two hours, but Kenny nailed it on two songs” – the aforementioned “Cigarettes, Coffee, Or You” and the rockabilly–style “1955.”
Not to be overlooked are the harmonizing voices of Daria Grace and Vibeke Saugestad. “Daria is a great musician who lives in Beacon NY and leads a group called Daria Grace & the Pre-War Ponies. Vibeke Saugestad was a genuine pop star in her home country of Norway before she moved to the U.S. She and Daria also work as the Wynotte Sisters, especially during December when they write and perform original holiday songs.”
Steve Almaas sums up: “I really have a good feeling about this record. This is what I do – this is what I can do with the help of my excellent musician friends. I stand by it, and I hope people like it.”
More About Steve Almaas
Steve Almaas was born in Minneapolis in 1956 and had his life changed forever when he saw the Beatles make their US television debut in 1964 on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He tried his hand at piano, violin and guitar before picking up a bass, his first electric instrument. After playing in what he calls “various versions of the same basement band throughout junior high and high school,” he joined Chris Osgood (guitar, vocals) and Dave Ahl (drums, vocals) to form the Suicide Commandos, the first punk rock group from the Twin Cities area. The Commandos are credited with launching a local scene that brought forth the likes of Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum and the Replacements, among many others.
Following the dissolution of the Commandos, Almaas assembled a new band called the Crackers and relocated to New York. The year was 1979, and the city’s New Wave and No Wave scenes were in full swing. He became good friends with Mitch Easter and the members of the dB’s (Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple, Will Rigby and Gene Holder), and he crossed paths with several other bands including 8-Eyed Spy and the Raybeats.
After the Crackers broke up, Almaas formed Beat Rodeo, a quartet that skirted the fringes of the big time. They released two albums on I.R.S. Records (home of R.E.M. and the Go-Go’s) and toured the U.S. and Europe. Record sales failed to match their critical success, however, and the band fizzled out by 1988. Now firmly planted in New York, Steve embarked on a variety of musical ventures, including the Gornack Brothers, a duo with George Usher; and The Kool Kings, with Justice Hahn and Alex Chilton. He released his first solo album, East River Blues, in 1993; a second, Bridge Songs, followed two years later.
In 1996, the Suicide Commandos reunited for a show in Minneapolis. Ten thousand people showed up for the gig, and the fanfare prompted Mercury/Polygram Records to reissue Make A Record, the Commandos’ lone studio album, on CD. Almaas continued making solo albums, and he teamed up with Ali Smith to make a pair of country–pop albums in 2002 and 2006, respectively.
Outside of making music, Steve Almaas continues his career as a New York City schoolteacher, and this occupation frees up his summers for musical endeavors. He played bass with the Raybeats for a 2011 benefit show and joined the Del–Lords (fronted by Scott Kempner of the Dictators) for a successful European tour in 2015.