With an onslaught of pressure from modern record labels to produce high-selling records frequently and consistently, and the need to secure a loyal consumer base, an artist’s ability to experiment and evolve with his or her sound seems somewhat futile in the modern era. It seems that musicians throughout every genre are bound by the limitations of what sound will sell, often creating a disassociation between artistic freedom and production demands. With such high stakes, it takes immense talent and perhaps sheer disregard for self-preservation for an artist to experiment successfully with the many facets of the musical lexicon.
Perhaps this understanding of the limitations surrounding artists in the music industry highlight the significance of an incredible and diverse body of work crafted by singer-songwriter Dustin Steen, on the 5 track EP, “Mixed Genres”.
“Mixed Genres”, Dustin Steen’s latest solo release, can be labeled a healing EP. If we know a tiny little bit about Dustin’s personal thoughts and life, it’s because of the songs he has written. But what moves and impresses me about this particular EP is that it serves as a guide on how to grow, to forgive, and to improve, without consciously attempting to do so.
I’ve always told anyone who will listen, that “introspective” music can play a pivotal role in healing, in identifying and fixing your faults. Because the despair, the struggle and the experiences coming from the other end — those are words of incredible strength. You can use them to your benefit. That’s the way I choose to look at it. And “Mixed Genres” brings many introspective and heartfelt stories that will strengthen your soul.
If after listening to the EP’s acoustic rock opener, “This Sinner” you think that Dustin Steen is the latest manifestation of melodramatic pop-rock music, you’re perhaps right, but you’re also immensely wrong. To attribute one sound or dimension to Steen does a disservice to the man’s talent as a student of his art, a believer in his faith, and a narrator of his life.
Dustin Steen is a profound personality with a caring heart and a thinking mind, able to tackle his themes head on as he does on “Sleeping With One Eye Open”, and more importantly on the powerful, “Baby Blues” which looks at the realities of family, marriage and children when you’re too young and unprepared for its harsher eventualities.
“Under-Construction” sees Dustin gather all his rapping abilities, which he brings to the table with equal force and grace – whether singing or rapping Steen sounds in his comfort zone. The song has a strong spiritual element as Dustin questions a moment in life when we’re caught between accepting our faith and enjoying our vices.
“No Music On” is the classic heartfelt love song with soaring vocals built on a pure Americana soundscape. It reverts to the intimacy seen on the best of Steen’s songs, mastering the art of space, and calculated guitar work, as the song can breathes and echoes the love in Dustin Steen’s lyrics.
All throughout the EP, Dustin Steen succeeds, in conveying his subject matter genuinely and meticulously, evoking an empathetic response. “Mixed Genres” succeeds as an EP, and affirms the talent of Steen as a songwriter and musician.
MORE ABOUT DUSTIN STEEN: Music has been a part of Dustin Steen’s life ever since he was born. His parents were his first influence, and he remembers hearing the southern rock and country sounds from their band Buzzard Roost. Dustin quickly picked up playing the drums and singing by the age of seven. At the age of 12 he found himself singing in front of the congregation as his parents had switched from rock to gospel. Though the concept of God didn’t makes sense to Dustin at the time as he continued into a life of sin, turning toward alcoholism and losing his job along the way. He somehow found employment on a shrimp boat, and it was during his time offshore that he found solace in the bible. This led to Dusty pursuing music ministry in his parent’s church back home, and releasing his EP “Mixed Genre”.