Martin Harley, Daniel Kimbro, and Sam Lewis have, in the authentic acoustic words of Canadian Colin Linden, written an album that’s “got the cure”, and indeed, it’s “got the remedy”.
And let’s just say, from the heart of mid-western Wisconsin, America needs this music because it is a “remedy”, what with, as (the great) John Fogerty sang, “Two hundred million guns are loaded”, and of course, “Satan cries ‘Take aim’”.
HKL finds three talented musicians surrender their egos to a collective “more perfect union”. And American music is its common denominator. It’s just a thought, but Ben Franklin, with his invented musical instrument armonica, would certainly enjoy this album. Yeah, he said about our young experimental government, “It’s a republic, if you can keep it”. That’s a nice thought.
That all said, HKL is an album which will appeal to fans of (the before-mentioned)) Colin Linden and his own acoustic folk blues playing trio, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, and to go back a bit, the “Blues, Rags & Hollers” of Koerner, Ray & Glover. And the loose vibe of this music certainly follows the ethos of those Basement Tapes, what with the clubhouse writing and recording. As they say in their press release, “writing songs in the morning and rolling the tape in the afternoon”. This music cooks up a wonderful homespun meal.
The first three songs work as an overture for the rest of the album. ‘Grey Man’ walks down a country road and contemplates the human heartbeat – with “a young man flying a red kite” as “an old man sings the blues”, with the requisite “speeding ticket” on a bad day. Sometimes, a dip into deep waters reveals the frailty of baptismal words. The same is true for ‘Neighbors’, which is another profound glance at humanity, albeit at the community level and with a really catchy melody. Fans of (the also great) John Prine will enjoy the observational humour of the tune. Then, ‘Creepin’ Charlie’ continues the saga of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Sundown’, with the tale of a temptress, who, given her (let’s just say) disposition, probably never got that “speeding ticket”, or for that matter, ever cared about the frailty of those baptismal words. This is deep resonator guitar blues with a lonely pulse of a deft standup bass solo!
‘Cowboys In Hawaii’ is just nicely weird, with a pedal steel sound that rides the 1940’s radio waves of pre-World War II America. As my friend, Kilda Defnut, always says, “There’s a lot of safety in a hula dance”.
The good songs continue to flow Mississippi River water. ‘Good Guy’ is more acoustic country blues that confesses hidden foibles in the midst of a really nice tune. Then, ‘Rosary’ slows the pace into gorgeous introspection that touches some sort of everlasting faith – without a didactic thought in its melodic prayer book. It’s a lovely song. Now, ‘Who’s Hungry’ plays to a slight world beat, but it sets sights on west coast, Quicksilver Messenger Service music, circa What About Me. Indeed, ‘I Got Chair’ sings with simple banjo wisdom. But then ‘Tokyo’ slices into deep love. There are countless valentines in the travelogue metaphor of the song. But this tune avoids all the clichés. It’s just an idea, but this song could be the soundtrack to a really hip spotlight groom and bride wedding reception dance.
‘Whiskey Decisions’ (great title, that!) is a waltz-time bit of old-timey wisdom. And by the way, “and smoking in bed” isn’t a good idea, either.
Yes, ‘What To Do’ is molasses blues that name-checks the laid-back wisdom of Taj Mahal and J.J. Cale. Of course, a good resonator guitar solo can also offer some sage advice. Ditto for ‘I Gotta Chair’ that sings with carefree banjo joy of Henry David Thoreau’s proclamation of “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity”, replete with “a ratty couch, bars of soap worn down to nub, and a kitchen cat” that “don’t catch no mice”. Indeed, as Jimmy Stewart finally understood, “it’s a wonderful life”.
Harley Kimbro Lewis ends with the brief and optimistic ‘Man Get Ahold Of Yourself’, which jumps with (at least!) ten vinyl grooves chiseled into the commandments of acoustic folk blues stone tablet humour.
This music does cook up a very musical home-spun meal. Mark Twain’s Huck Finn explains his Americana culinary preference as he says, “In a barrel of odds and ends…things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better”. That’s a nice recipe. So, to take the advice of (the also before-mentioned) American icon John Prine, just “Blow up your TV”, “eat a lot of peaches”, and then enjoy the e pluribus pulse of Harley, Kimbro, and Lewis’ very American and delightfully “swapped around” musical “remedy”.
Artists’ website: https://www.harleykimbrolewis.com/
‘Neighbors’ – official video: