Stew & The Negro Problem, Making It

Tad Hendrickson

By Tad Hendrickson

on 01.24.12 in Reviews

Singer/songwriter/playwright/actor Stew won a Tony for his play Passing Strange, which ran on Broadway in 2008 and was subsequently filmed by Spike Lee. But just as the play was becoming a success, the romantic relationship between Stew and longtime girlfriend and musical partner Heidi Rodewald was falling apart. Making It puts this story to music, often scripting it with he said/she said verses filled with witty punch lines — one of which being, “Therapy Only Works if You Tell the Truth.”

A bold, unblinking story of things falling apart, put to music

They back these narratives with a combination of low-key acoustic tunes and big rock numbers, accented with gospel organ, melodica and horns that move from soul to skronky jazz. It’s not just one long bummer; the album’s early tracks are less relationship-based — the hilarious “Black Men Ski” and the new wave-y “Speed,” Stew’s ode to methamphetamines, provide notes of lightness. But with “Curse” they begin moving toward the broken heart of a matter, eventually arriving at “Leave Believe,” where the two sing the same sad verse before closing the song out together, confessing they were too busy doing their thing to realize their love had gone awry. Making It is a bold, unblinking creation.