American musician and actor, Chris Stills is the son of American rock musician Stephen Stills and French singer-songwriter Veronique Sanson. `Don`t Be Afraid`, is his first release in ten years. It`s been a long time coming and was influenced by the breakdown of his marriage to the mother of his two young daughters. The album was written with collaborators including Ryan Adams and Death Cab For Cutie`s Zac Rae. Indeed, speaking about the albums conclusion Stills says; “There was a lot of life that had to happen, a lot of things had to go right for this record to see the light of day. For as much as there’s a slight embarrassment regarding how long it took, I can’t knock myself, because I went through quite a bit. Like anybody else, I’ve had my ups and downs in this business and personally as well, but I never stopped doing what I do. Some stars just needed to align. The songs themselves are an honest chronicle from various moments of my journey to now.”
The opening track is “This Summer Love” and it`s a pleasing, nicely produced introduction. A real feel of summer with rich vocals shared over a strumming guitar, quiet percussion beats and some delightful string arrangements. I really loved the next cut “Hellfire Baby Jane” with its laid-back jangly guitars, Stills` voice is beautifully melodic and there`s some sweet harmonic backing. The music builds up as the song progresses. riding on a spooky roots sensibility to transportive effect, The next two songs, the melancholic “In Love Again” and “Daddy`s Little Girl” seem to encapsulate the fear of entering a new relationship and with the later, the effect that relationship will have on their offspring. “Lonely Nights” is a larger than life song dealing with the isolation of being separated and alone. A more roots offering comes with “The Weekend” about the pitfalls of how you can lose your down time to alcohol and other more potent highs. A slight change and we have, two more up-tempo cuts with “Criminal Mind” co-written with Ryan Adams, a catchy cracking rock out assault with some superb guitar shredding just over half way through, then “Blame Game” a driving melody whose lyrics remonstrate against both the White House administration and their Head of State`s own professed shortcomings. Stills is certainly not a Trump supporter. The album`s title track “Don`t Be Afraid” is a contemplative piece of orchestral pop with an emotional narrative. It must have taken on further poignance when the artist came to perform it live in Paris in the wake of the Bataclan terror attacks. ‘Leaving You Behind’ is a touching song, written directly to Stills’ two young daughters, to soothe them by trying to bring hope into a newly broken family. The album closes out with the reflective “In The Meantime”, that deals with heart-break of a relationship ending and the depth of hopelessness felt in trying to come terms with the reality of the situation.
This was an enjoyable and thought provoking offering and I can fully understand why it took so long to appear. It`s an honest and personal reflection from the writer, where he lays bare his opinions and feelings on how his marital breakup has not only affected himself but those close to him. Enlightening for us and I`m sure cathartic for him.
Rating 8.5 /10