Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, CA
Steph Thompson, or Steffaloo, probably plays more coffeehouses than she likes to. She probably has the stink of roasted coffee beans singed into the walls of her nostrils, unable to not have that smell seasoning everything. As a frequent observer of the coffeehouse-as-workplace, this situation is a familiar one. What we notice about Thompson and her songs is that many of them are sneaky and come at you from the strangest angles - places that are hardly coffeed. There are moments, for instance on most of this session's lead track, "If You Were My Baby, Baby," where she sounds positively meant for a jazz club in New York City, circa the 40s or 50s. She sounds like a devastated woman, howling at the moon, pining for a love that's not coming to her. He's the one who could be her blue skies, but it's just not happening and there's nothing that anyone can do about it. No guy. No blue skies. The wailing goes one. It's sad. It's damn sad and she's blue enough about it that she gets her Louis Armstrong and Etta James on, conveying it.
Be that as it may, Thompson's songs are pop songs and, when she breaks out the ukulele, there's no confusing where and how she's going to have to play that thing. She sings about love in the way that it sure seems to like to affect people of a certain age. It toys with them in such a way that they become drunken on two thoughts: That love is a real asshole and it will never get quite right for them OR that love is worth waiting for, moving like molasses in a process that is only finished when it's right. So, people pass and they go. They come back, thinking they made a mistake when they last left. They look constantly over their shoulders, even while feeling like happiness is out there, somewhere else, in front of them, around a blindsided turn. They feel alive when they're not alive. They feel worked over and still ready to burst when the right person comes along. The sullen nights in the clubs will linger on for a while longer usually though. They must or it wouldn't be Thompson's kind of love.