Review: Stephen Doster
Over the Red Sea (Faw Recording)
By Doug Freeman, Fri., April 1, 2022
Stephen Doster may be more familiar behind the scenes as a songwriter, producer, and guitarist, but Over the Red Sea marks his third album in the past eight years. Like 2013's Arizona and 2017's New Black Suit, Doster's latest rings reflective reckoning with recent losses and forcefully finding grace in quiet moments. As the opening salvo of "When I Cross the Divide" sets up, the songs serve as a bridge between worlds – spiritual and physical, hopeful idealism and stark reality – and Doster deftly navigates back and forth between them. Small details expand into an embrace of the moment, from the scene-setting vignettes of "The Singing Bus Driver" and "Blue Heron" to the meditative reminders of "The Sweet Life" and "We'll Still Have Today." It's keeping that focus on what matters amid the intruding dire dramas that constantly returns Doster to the song, powerfully refusing to turn away on the Heather Hyer ode "A Better World" or the immigrant strife of "Magdalena Spoke." Doster distills intense meaning in the subtlest of moments, always presenting the choice before us of how we will live facing that great divide. As he beautifully pulls back from the bad news on the phone in "Anything Could Happen:" "Time is in motion, it never stands still/ Anything could happen and it probably will."