Steph Cameron hails from Saskatoon, the same Canadian town as Joni Mitchell, she’s been a busker living on the streets and her debut album was called ‘Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady.’ So far, so perfect. ‘Daybreak Over Jackson Street’ lives up to expectations, proving that honest hearted folk songs can be a powerful force for good in the world.
With her background working with disadvantaged people it’s no wonder the title track is such a sympathetic portrayal of poverty. There’s people behind boarded doors / there’s beds and blankets on the floors / they’re opening the liquor stores at daybreak over Jackson Street‘. Her aim is towards the system of power and oppression, rather than the unfortunate people who end up its victims. ‘the law is like an anchored ship / it’s drowning people drip by drip / and it’s tethered by a desperate grip / it issues justice from a whip / sending bullets fired from a clip / carried on a gangster’s hip / from a politician’s fingertip. As the song builds towards the end she gets louder but not angrier – she’s clear headed in her condemnation of political power and how it crushes.
I also a hear country influence on this album with ‘On My Mind‘ coming off as sounding like a female Hank Williams. The harmonica playing is top notch and reminds me that I haven’t heard enough of this fine instrument on country albums this year. This song is about the dark side of life, where drugs are the only escape from the cruel reality of the city.
Richard is a story song, about a guy who never made it out of a bad place. Her music feels authentic, like these songs are written about real people she’s known. Stories only she can tell of how ‘years just sort of go‘. Young and Living Free is also concerned with the theme of time, drenched in nostalgia for a past that feels like yesterday.
Winterwood evokes the feeling of snow days when you’ve been outside for hours and you’re so used to the cold you’re almost warm again. This song wraps around you like a scarf, comforting and familiar. California contrasts the cold with a distant sunny dream of a different life. Both songs are like fresh breaths of frosty air into your lungs.
I hear a lot of Dolly Parton on the songs ‘Little Blue Bird’ and ‘Sing for Me’, such is their simple honesty and compassionate heart. Little Blue Bird is a beautiful song about offering kindness when it’s most needed. The melody is almost like a children’s song, with its upbeat nursery rhyme style delivery (that’s a compliment by the way, since kids see through any pretentiousness). ‘Sing For Me’ is a perfect dream about singing a happy song to brighten the world. Dolly would definitely approve.
The final song on the album is called ‘Peace is Hard to Find‘ and it has a more troubling undercurrent to the music. I guess it’s hard not to let things get you down, although one listen to this album certainly cheered me up. You’ve just got to cling to the hope that together we can wade through ‘the mire and the muck‘ to a better future.
Steph Cameron’s songs contemplate life with a sharp eye and a sweet heart. If you spend some time with ‘Daybreak Over Jackson Street‘ you will see much beauty in the broken world of these songs.
Thanks to At The Helm Records who sent me this album in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase the album directly from their website: