[27 January 2011]
Sometimes you listen to a record and think, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, exactly.Then again, there is little to make it stand out.” This may be especially true in some genres, such as blues and bluegrass, in which certain song structures or instrumentation predominate. In such cases, innovation is not going to make an artist stand out; execution is.
James Kinds is a great example of this. He’s a decent blues singer and a dexterous guitarist, whose songs hit all the right notes—literally—but still manage to sound rather generic. Love You From the Top is well stocked with 15 songs that could serve as a template for the electric, guitar-heavy Chicago blues sound, but despite this, few stick in the memory. “Mason Dixon Line Blues” is an exception, a slow, swampy number that makes good use of Kinds’ yearning vocals and understated, non-flashy playing.
“My Mama Told Me” digs deep as well, but for every song like these, there are several forgettable by-the-book blues workouts like “Oo Wee Baby” or “Body Slam” or “If You Need It”, which slide by without making much impression. It doesn’t help that the bass and drums are mixed down so far that the entire sonic range sounds flat. It’s a shame, because Kinds undeniably has skills, and his is just the kind of band to curl up with on a snowy winter evening. Hearing them kick it live in a bar, though, is probably the way to do it.