Steve Gates is a singer-songwriter from Halifax, Nova Scotia and A Bee in Her Mouth is his debut full-length album. It was recorded in a makeshift studio in an apartment with the help of his friends in the East Coast arts community. With roots like that, it’s hard not to develop warm feelings for this album.
The album starts with “Proud Convey It,” a song of pride tainted with an uncertainty that Gates need not feel — A Bee in Her Mouth is worthy of both pride and praise. His music is complex, filled with intricate orchestration involving an astonishing variety of instruments.
This album features accordions, cellos, clarinets, trumpets and tambourines. Gates provides the album with its skeleton; that is, acoustic guitar and vocals on all tracks. His voice has an honesty and consistency to it. His guitar work is played simply and charmingly written — in fact, the best parts of A Bee in Her Mouth arise when Gates strips away some of the album’s complexity, revealing his humble, beautiful music.
Two songs are particularly impressive, letting the work of Steve Gates shine. “Keepin People Out” has all the elements of a classic folk song with darkly satirical additions from recent headlines. “Lost Balloons” is a song of love, comfort and longing that weds country music to the gorgeous imagery associated with East-Coast music.
A Bee in Her Mouth may be complex and at times a little unfocused, but it is nonetheless a promising display from a new artist.