Progression (USA) - spring/summer 09 (issue #57)

Multi-instrumentalist/singer Steve Cochrane has been making music as a solo artist since 1983; this is his first disc since 1998’s The Purest of Designs. Though this Nova Scotia native has resided in Ontario since the mid-70s, it appears the Maritimes never left him. The songs offered here have a jaunty “old sailor” vibe with rollicking acoustic guitar, drums, and Cochrane’s folky, pub-style vocal inflections. All are embellished by delicate electric guitar passages and layers of keyboards creating a unique brand of symphonic folk-rock.
All of the instruments are very clear, as superior production accentuates Cochrane’s proggy idiosyncrasies quite beautifully. “Where Is It Leading?” features an exceptional ballad-like introductory framework. “Swans” is the best track on With Or Without, demonstrating Steve’s nimble guitar work and ability to craft a grandly emotive acoustic/symphonic statement.
He’s a very good instrumentalist, handling guitars, bass and keyboards while singing both lead and background vocals. His supporting cast takes a backseat, making this recording feel uneven at times. But that’s a minor quibble with this decidedly rewarding listen.

Reviewed by Zach Boissoneau