Take two of the finer singer-songwriters around, put them together for another album with a talented multi-instrumentalist, and what do you have? Nothing less than a fantastic record.
Kieran Kane used to sing about daddies needing to grow up when he was with the O'Kanes in the '80s. A few years later, Kevin Welch sang about waiting until he saw the love of his life again. Both singer-songwriters seemed to fit the good graces of Nashville, but it was only for a few years at best. Since Nashville has become big and rich, the talents of 10 to 15 years ago have found themselves still doing what they do but often without the corporate backing behind them. Kane and Welch, as well as some others, formed their own record label called Dead Reckoning. And since they're business partners, why not be musical partners? The duo, along with the nifty skills of multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin, released You Can’t Save Everybody in 2004, a solid mix of folk, roots, blues, and everything that makes Americana or alt.country music great. Now, they're back with their second album. And while it is more of the same, you might find the loose, lively feel of this record a bit more to your liking.
Recorded in a span of basically a few days, the album gets off to a slow, bluesy, folksy start with Kane taking the lead vocal for "Monkey Jump", a tune that flies thanks to its barebones feel and Kaplin's subtle but effective fiddle in the background. It's almost mountain music, but there's a great murky feeling running underneath it. Kaplin's fiddle creates some tension, but the trio is smart enough to know not to cut through it. From there, they slow things down just a hair for the steady, Delta blues-flavored "Satan’s Paradise" that Welch delivers quite nicely. It's a deliberate, dusty road kind of ditty that again has Kaplin adding some great sonic colors, this time with an accordion. It also works because the only thing keeping the beat are the light drum brushes and what sounds like a boot stomping on a hardwood floor.
If you're looking to boogie your butt for a few minutes, then you'll lap up the mountain-meets-Delta vibe of the title track, which has some sweet harmonies by both Welch and Kane as a banjo leads the song along. While all of the songs here are great, this one seems to edge the others out by a nose. After that up-tempo jaunt, the album slows down with the pretty and poignant "Heaven Now" that is right up Welch's singer-songwriter alley. He revisits this later on with "Clean Getaway" with as much success. Finally, both Kane and Welch co-share the lead vocals, with each alternating a line while a muddy but appealing series of guitar licks come to the fore.
If there is one song off the record that takes a moment or two to find its footing, it has to be the folksy lullaby of "I Can’t Wait". Kaplin sets the melody in motion on accordion prior to Kane's sparse guitar-picking melody clears things up. It's a very delicate song in the vein of Townes Van Zandt, and Kane rises to the challenge easily. The ensuing tune, however, "Mr. Bones", is a cross between folk and a Middle Eastern-flavored groove, albeit fueled by acoustic guitars. It's not to say that it doesn’t work, but it just takes a little while to warm up to.
Although both songwriters would be able to shine on their own with these songs, it's the combination of the two of them that makes for one heck of a listen. Add Kaplin to the mix and songs like "Them Wheels Don't Roll" anymore just roll perfectly from start to finish, no one performer stepping on the toes of the other. And if the first ten songs weren't enough, the trio decides to let loose for a rousing and instantly infectious cover of "Mellow Down Easy", a track that doesn't mellow down at all. The say the third time is the charm, but Kane and Welch will have a hell of a lot of trouble convincing me of that after this one.