His name has become synonymous with his powerful voice; a voice that contours into each song, fixing itself into place and laying bare the words. With a vocal range and delivery that’s sultry enough to make virtually anyone swoon and fill with envy, there’s real magic happening in every inch of what Mr. Maloney does. But one does not get paraded through jury after jury on mere talent alone – it takes a lot more than just some glowing pipes.
No, Steve Maloney’s work is a veritable showcase of what it takes to succeed.It’s divinely gifted talent, work ethic, imaginative songwriting, a striking supporting cast, and fine tuned production wrapped into a gift for us all. And it has earned him a well deserved gift as well — Steve Maloney’s “The Memory Game” is the winner of the 2018 Borealis Music Prize.
It’s a momentous feat, and not simply because of the rigorous nature of the tripled jury process. His peers on the shortlist – Fog Lake, Kubasonics, Amelia Curran, and Ourobouros – have each carved out their own measure of prominence both on this icy rock and abroad. It’s a difficult task to compare and qualify such disparate works, but it’s reassuring to look back on another year of St. John’s music and see such variety, let alone the mastery that comes attached to each.
The isolation of the province once again comes as both a blessing and a curse – each of these acts are big fish in a small pond, but have managed to traverse the country and further to share their music. The act of incubation that provides us with the healthiest offspring, those willing to explore and refine their craft. Every act on the list are not only some of the biggest go-getters based out of Newfoundland – they’re those who make themselves better with every available moment.
Maloney did this. Since his debut album in 2014, he’s been on a path towards joining the next level of Canadian songwriters. From various festival spots to a residency in Dawson City as a featured songwriter, he’s cemented himself as a young wolf of folk music, working his way to the head of the pack. The Memory Game immediately connects him to the Canadian indie milieu. Joshua Van Tassel, a musical swiss army knife known for Great Lake Swimmers and Sarah Slean, heads up the record. Prominent guests fill out meaningful roles, but it never feels as though Maloney is a mere figurehead or icon. He is a driving force, a powerful frontman, and a welcome collaborator. There’s a real dedication to the souls of the songs – veritable care put into their excesses and reserves. It moves carefully; shifts in thoughtful and unique ways. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not derivative. It is an original work that could only be released from original, ubiquitous creative minds.
To reflect back on a short career, it’s not hard to see potential being realized. From working with industry heavyweights on two stunning albums, to a pair of Borealis shortlists and many an accolade in between, it’s certainly time to acknowledge Maloney as a member of that tiny group of otherworldly Newfoundland songwriters. The time of discussing him amongst the up-and-comers has passed. Steve Maloney, winner of the 2018 Borealis Music prize, is a beacon for the future of Newfoundland songwriters.
This year’s shortlist was Amelia Curran (for Watershed), Fog Lake (for Dragonchaser), Kubasonics (for Kubfunland), Ouroboros (for Kitchuses), and Steve Maloney (for The Memory Game).