REVIEW: Stephen Wilson Jr.’s Debut Double Album, søn of dad

Last September Stephen Wilson Jr. released his debut double album, Søn of Dad via Big Loud Records. Family, love, grief, the father-son bond and letting go are all themes present in the ambitious 22-track project. The album is also dedicated to his late father, who passed away 5 years prior. As he shares in a press release,

“Writing and making this album has been very therapeutic for me to learn who I am and what my existence looks like after my father. Because life has to go on,” Wilson says. “I’m living my own life, but it’s like his death book ended what life he should have had onto mine and I’m carrying it around like a train car” (Wilson Jr., PR team).

The result is a record that reads like musical poetry and is chock-full of biblical references. Sonically, it’s trance-like and blends Southern rock, country, grunge and American gothic into one.

Featured: Official cover art for Stephen Wilson Jr.'s album, Søn Of Dad. Courtesy of Big Loud Records.

The album opens with “the devil,” a chilling testament to the current state of the world. This is followed by “Cuckoo,” a song that is best described as poking fun at life’s daily grievances. Up next is “billy,” which celebrates growing up in Southern Indiana. “patches” is a song for those who are a ‘lil rough around the edges and encourages them to embrace said imperfections. This is followed by “American Gothic,” which features fellow label mate, Hailey Whitters. Within the edgy song, the duo sings of being teenagers in small-town farm fields.

In “Werewolf” he grapples with his childhood trauma, his demons and darkness once again. Sin & strength take centre stage in “Mighty Beast,” as he paints himself as a hopeless case that’s ‘doomed to die’. True to its title, the nostalgia-ridden “Year to Be Young 1994” revisits Stephen’s youth in 1994. Returning to the religious references, he praises God in “twisted,” while also pointing out how challenging and messed up life can be.

Father’s Søn” explores the complicated tapestry of having your identity intertwined with that of your late father’s. As Stephen explains in a press release,

“Being born in the shadow of a man greater than his name and to be given the same, I was gifted with this song as an attempt to rationalize my inherent conflict between heredity & identity,” shares Wilson. “Am I me or am I him, and who is he? Whoever I was before died with him, and now I am what I am with a mighty anchor that is his legacy dragging an ocean floor full of formative memories” (Wilson Jr., PR team).

Continuing the theme of love and loss is “Grief is Only Love”— a song that makes the case that grief is the leftover love that’s lost its home after a loved one has passed on. Stephen further processes his grief in “Hang in There,” chronicling his experience/life two years after losing his father. Calico Creek” is vivid visual, rural folklore married with biblical references about cleansing oneself of sin. That dirty, grunge sound is on full display in “Holler from the Holler,” as he recalls a troubling past (and desperately tried to escape from) that marked him as a ‘broken soul’. Not Letting Go” is about holding on to pieces of the past and not fully moving on from someone you loved. After all, if you fully let go of the memories and pain, it all becomes real and finite.

For What It’s Worth” is the light in the dark, as Stephen pours his heart out to the woman he loves.All the Wars from Now On” is a striking call for peace, one the world needs to hear. “kid” is yet another straightforward track, in which he sings of being a kid and all the things we grow up believing and dreaming about. 

“Henry” is a touching tribute to the artist’s stepson, whom he loves the same as his own flesh & blood–regardless of whether he views him as a father figure or not. Filled with gothic scenes and darkness, “You” is a song for the one who becomes our anchor and loves us despite all our darkness and all the horrors in the world.

The album closes off with “The Beginning,” a matter-of-fact track that states that the world doesn’t end and life goes on, even if we’re all bound to the same fate.

THE VERDICT

“the devil,” “Hometown,” “patches,” “Grief is Only Love,” “Werewolf” and “All the Wars from Now On” would be my standout picks. These tracks all fare well on their own and demonstrate Stephen Wilson Jr.’s strengths as both an artist and songwriter.

A times the record lulls, as all the tracks are sonically similar– however its atmospheric nature is not necessarily a downpoint if you’re listening to it during your workday. Still, I believe the album would be stronger if it were more concise, as some tracks feel like unnecessary filler. A regular album instead of a double album would have achieved the same objectives. Not to discredit the album, which possesses enough strong points that make it worth a listen.

If you’re a fan of Ariel Pink, Neutral Milk Hotel and neo-traditional/alt-country, this record is for you.

SØN OF DAD FULL ALBUM TRACKLIST:

  1. the devil (Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  2. Cuckoo (Jeffrey Steele, Stephen Wilson Jr., Travis Meadows)
  3. billy (Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  4. patches (Jeffrey Steele, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  5. American Gothic (feat. Hailey Whitters) (Benjamin West, Hailey Whitters, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  6. Werewolf (Bryan Simpson, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  7. Mighty Beast (Ryan Necci, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  8. Year to Be Young 1994 (Benjamin West, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  9. twisted (Connor Thuotte, Jeremy Spillman, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  10. Father’s Søn (Josh Kerr, Nick Wayne, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  11. Grief is Only Love (Jeffrey Steele, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  12. Hang in There (Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  13. Calico Creek (Jesse Murphy, Michael Wilkes, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  14. Holler from the Holler (Craig Wiseman, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  15. Hometown (Marve Green, Stephen Wilson Jr., Tony Lane)
  16. Not Letting Go (Andrew DeRoberts, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  17. For What It’s Worth (Benjamin West, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  18. All the Wars from Now On (Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  19. kid (Lori McKenna, Benjamin West, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  20. Henry (Stephen Wilson Jr., Tony Lane)
  21. You (Bryan Simpson, Stephen Wilson Jr.)
  22. The Beginning (Stephen Wilson Jr.)
 

*Produced by Stephen Wilson Jr, Ben West

 

___________

*This article is a release “From the Vault”. Updated information has been included to introduce a fresh & relevant perspective.

Listen to the søn of dad Album Now:

 

Stay up to Date With Stephen Wilson Jr.:

Works Cited

Evans, Acacia. “Featured: Stephen Wilson Jr.. PC: Acacia Evans”. Courtesy of PR Team. Accessed Oct 11 2023.

PR team.“Watch Now 🎥: Stephen Wilson Jr.’s “Grief Is Only Love” Acoustic Performance Video”. Oct 11 2023. Press Release.

PR team.“Stephen Wilson Jr. Releases Moving Dedication To His Late Father”. Jun 16 2023. Press Release.

Stephen Wilson Jr. “ søn of dad.” Spotify, Big Loud Records. 2023.<https://open.spotify.com/album/1yoC2Wq50qymZj5HyF2z2A?si=x5YZxIaHRuK7L1RsLJDDWQ>.

Unknown. “Featured: Official cover art for Stephen Wilson Jr.’s album, Søn Of Dad. Courtesy of Big Loud Records.”. Courtesy of Big Loud Records. Accessed Oct 11 2023.

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