All Music Guide Review


I Wasn’t Built For A Life Like This

Review in All Music Guide by James Allen

Making a man-and-guitar record is perhaps the ultimate trial by fire proposition for a singer/songwriter; there’s nothing standing between your songs and the listener except your axe of choice and whatever attitude you may choose to project. In such a Spartan context, those whose material is subpar will immediately have their flaws exposed.

On the other end of the spectrum, a skilled songsmith can make a more visceral impact by removing all the sonic middlemen from the listening experience, and achieving an intimate, urgent connection with the audience. In the case of Caleb Stine, the latter effect is undoubtedly what I Wasn’t Built for a Life Like This engenders. Stine has recorded with a band in the past, but he’s clearly the kind of journeyman balladeer who likes to take his songs straight to the people in as simple and straightforward a way as possible, so the solo-acoustic approach is a natural for him.

In fact, it’s that self-same traveling songwriter life that’s at the heart of some of the album’s most affecting tunes. The title track, for instance, offers up the uncertainties and insecurities of a singer/songwriter at odds with both his life on the road and the life he’s left back at home, with telling, incisive observations like “all my friends back in my hometown get a worried look when I come around.”

However, the album closes with probably the most powerful tune, “The Eternal Present,” in which a character similar to that of the aforementioned song — presumably bearing a close resemblance to Stine himself — comes to terms with his choices and sacrifices. “What’s one more empty club, no money to speak of, when I’m doing what I love and what I should?” is as undeniable an endorsement of the troubadour life as has ever been sung, as Stine simultaneously embraces that path’s tribulations and triumphs, with a mix of resolve and reverie, and a generous helping of poetic lyricism.

Leave a Reply