The whole long distance band notion is an easy one to romanticize, particularly in the age of myspace bands that end up making it huge (or for that matter, the Postal Service), so the massive surge in such projects should come as no surprise. The large amount of artists taking this avenue results in a few snags, however - particularly in that with how many others are doing it, standing out becomes incredibly difficult. Take a gifted songwriter like Paul Marsteller, who happened upon the talents of sultry vocalist Simone Stevens and multi-instrumentalist Gabe Rhodes, and you'll see such a union in action - yes, an unquestionably capable bunch, but sadly yet another group producing an all-too-familiar brand of music. Under the name Fiery Blue, the trio have put together a well done collection of songs that indeed shows off their prowess, but at the same time, does very little that could be regarded as anything new, or overly interesting.
The first, and most obvious, issue with Fiery Blue's debut is that, with eighteen tracks, there are simply too many songs thrown together. Because of this, the tracks blur together quite a bit, and it's damning enough to cancel out some pretty solid songwriting. Stevens' lovely vocal patterns along with the tasteful piling of instruments sound great on Hide Away - the bleak electric guitars over the silent acoustic ones, the stuttering drums, the subtle accordian, Stevens' mournful singing, it all comes together quite beautifully. In fact, it's also worthy of mention that the quality of the music never drops; everything stays the same. However, this is precisely the problem - everything stays the same. The differentiations only pop up when things don't click as well as they should; Where They Are comes across as too comparable to generic soft rock radio, while the more upbeat moments like Fire Show (or Magic, with its rather contrived notion of finding one's self by way of traveling west) hint to their influences a bit too well; in this particular case, a Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds intro followed by a Beautiful Stranger-reminiscent guitar (whose similarity is not deterred even by the twangy manner of playing).
What's frustrating is that nobody is at fault here; Rhodes' production earns top marks, as he captures the bleak feel nearly perfectly with his dynamic and diverse production. Stevens is also able to nail the role of the spurned songstress exceedingly well, with a voice as beautiful as it is clearly emotional and tired. Marsteller, too, shows great skill, armed with a clear mastery of positioning melodies alongside one another while expressing the lyrical subject matter convincingly. However, nothing feels unique, nothing lasts very long after the initial listen, and the stab Fiery Blue makes at alt-rock and americana is rendered as bland and ineffective in the light that it's not only been done so many times before in the same way, but done better.