Kenny Young Band. Simple Things.
This album from New Jersey based Kenny Young popped through the door as recently as April and after a couple of listens we put pen to paper. It was only then we discovered the album was actually recorded in 2010. That said Kenny had added a nice hand-written letter to the package and he covers one of Blabber’n’Smoke’s favourite songs so here goes.
A jobbing musician for most of his life this is Young’s debut album so he’s had plenty of time to hone his songwriting and it shows. While he’s not a wordsmith per se he manages to come up with strong verses and choruses that fit well with the muscular delivery of the band be it the jaunty pop of We’ll Find Love Again, the radio friendly ballad Going Home or the pell mell Southern rock’n’roll that is Krazy. While young’s voice can be grits or honey depending on the song the highlight on most of these cuts is the guitar playing of Andy Schlee whose slide playing on Nothing To Hear is indeed a joy to hear. He really lets rip on Strong Man where his solo is reminiscent of vintage Thin Lizzy. While there are some ballads including Waiting which again features some fine playing from Schlee the overall feel is of a band that has its roots firmly in the mid seventies and especially that of the southern Rock bands of that time which takes us to that cover version, Duane Allman’s Midnight Rider. While this doesn’t have the stoner groove of the original it packs a punch and I daresay goes down a treat live.
Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Reasons. White Lighter.
Another album that was recorded in 2010 but only recently swam to these shores this is a great listen. Fletcher writes some fine songs and his voice has an attractive easy way with the words as he sings about losers and folk tossed aside by life’s trials. Ably supported by The Wrong Reasons, a local conglomerate of musician friends there are loose limbed country ballads, rootsy blues workouts and rockabilly riots scattered throughout. Opening with the attractive fiddle laced folkiness of Say What You Will the album ramps up the pace on the following two songs, Ambulances and Flat Tire, the former a full tilt road song with driving harmonica and a great guitar solo from Damian Puerin, the latter a pile driving world weary lament that has a huge sound with clanging guitar and a gung ho chorus. The world weariness continues on the album highlight, Every Heartbroken Man. A fantastictically jangled guitar runs through this tale of a down on his luck guy for whom everything that can go wrong goes wrong who accepts that fate cannot comfort every heartbroken man. Fletcher’s lyrics have a boho fatalism that he delivers with just the right mix of emotion and detachment. St. Vincent continues with this life is shit motif as the protagonist states that when he eventually get to sit on God’s knee he’ll complain that he’s been treated as a criminal all of his life. Here the band sound like the best or worst ever bunch of punch drunk honky tonk players as the song drunkenly weaves its way with Puerin delivering a stinging yet gloriously woozy solo. There’s a bunch of other songs that all stand up to scrutiny including the delightful broken country waltz of Front Porch and the George Jones inspired honky tonk hymn to booze which is Drunk and Single. You can capture the album free here for a limited time. Have a listen and then buy it, it’s a great album.
Every Heartbroken Man
Jonah Tolchin. Criminal Man.
Finally we go back to New Jersey to find Jonah Tolchin, a youngster of 19 who sounds a lot older and delivers some spinechilling spare songs along with a few more muscular diatribes including a cover of a Blaze Foley song. The opening track here is a wonderfully glacial song with Tolchin on guitar and voice accompanied only by a cello and immediately the listener is captured by the beauty and simplicity here. Godforsaken World expands the sound adding fiddle and bass but is similar in delivery. This melancholic feel resurfaces on Fracking Nightmare where Tolchin addresses the environmental issues of this new and potentially destructive method of robbing the planet. A musical saw adds to the sense of foreboding on what is a fine protest song. Wrong Side of the Wire which follows is another environmental lament with a simple delivery. Tolchin’s fine voice and guitar is supported by pedal steel from Ed Iarusso on a song that could stand proudly beside the best that Woody Guthrie could conjure up. Strangely enough one of the backing vocalists here is the selfsame Joe Fletcher mentioned above, small world indeed. Fletcher sings again on the Foley cover, Oval Room which gets a jauntier delivery and reminds one of the Reagan years. Tolchin leaves the politics behind to an extent on the final song, Rocks and Nails, a wonderful ballad that seems to describe a suicide on a railroad line, evocative and chilling it serves to deliver notice that Tolchin is one to watch.