Album: Love Love Love (2007)
Artist: Steven Ybarra
Where available/price: iTunes for $9.
Songs: 1) Love Love Love 2) All I Am 3) The Beauty of Your Love 4) Please Please 5) The Perfect Song 6) Can’t Live Without You 7) Lifetime Valentine 8) Good Thing 9) Who You Are to Me 10) No More Lonely Days 11) Lay It Down
Band: Steven Ybarra (vocals, guitar), Debbie Galan (vocals), Mark Hattersley (vocals, keyboard), Brian Darnell (keyboard, guitar, vocals), Evan Hesse (guitar), James Hood (guitar), Chris Wilson (guitar), Kirk Cumming (guitar), Brandon O’Connell (keyboard), Alex De Pue (violin)
Extra info: Steven Ybarra’s CD-release show — free! — will be at Grace Chapel of the Coast in Oceanside (102 N. Freeman St.) on Saturday, May 17, at 7:00 p.m.
A lot of music produced in San Diego drifts away from being an expression of humanity and relies on formula to be pleasing rather than evocative. Steven Ybarra’s new disc also smacks of standards instead of creativity. And while Love Love Love lyrics strive for consensus rather than confrontation, who among us would argue against “love”?
Ybarra’s unclouded devotion to a single motif (check the title for a hint) and pat phrases (thanking the Lord for love, staring into the eyes of a loved one, and hearts — oh, so many hearts) obstructs his guitar work, which is top-shelf. While his voice carries a bit of soul and sass, those qualities seem manufactured, as is the tradition of too many San Diego acts. (Jason Mraz, I’m looking in your direction.)
Even in the love-gone-wrong song “Please, Please,” Ybarra’s delivery lacks ferocity and pain; his voice tends toward the tepid and regulated. (It’s certainly not Big Joe Williams begging his woman, “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”) Ybarra’s project handles that tumultuous and dangerous emotion — love — with the most surface of treatments and the safest skillful playing.