Kevin Connolly,
Around The Bend
(Real Records, 1999)

Irrepressible energy and a solid beat propel these snappy little tunes along and will have you tapping your foot on the floor. Kevin Connolly's fourth album, Around the Bend, is also his first on his own label. Kevin is clearly one of those artists that can't be pigeon-holed and thus does not fit neatly into a marketing plan.

Despite releasing what was one of the very best albums in recent memory (Little Town back in 1995), Kevin and his label have since parted ways. Seeking more control over his music and marketing, Kevin left Eastern Front which had released his first three albums (Kevin Connolly, MY, MY, MY and Little Town) and struck out on his own. He formed Real Records to release his latest effort, Around the Bend.

Kevin is a sharp lyricist, whose songs slide smoothly along, sucking you in, until the world is defined in his terms and you don't remember when things were ever any other way. It is a shock when the song ends, and briefly, before the next one comes along, you are plunged back into your own world.

Though he can cut loose when he wants to, Kevin's voice is soft and warm, and he's got a smooth delivery which the band deftly supports without getting in his way. The words are right out front, and they should be, because it is Kevin's craft as a wordsmith that makes his work so commanding. The language is natural and real without being repetitive or plain. Each song is it's own tale, its own set of feelings and observations, little details picked out in a sharp picture of someone's life.

I am guessing that most of these songs are in some sense pictures of Kevin's life, that the characters in the tunes are people he knows intimately, people whose lives he moves through everyday and who populate his days and nights. His easy familiarity with these characters and their lives is communicated in the tunes and the confidence with which he lays them out, one tale after another.

I highly recommend this album. Kevin is a rockin' singer-songwriter who knows how to fashion a tune. Some of the highlights of Around the Bend are "She's No Clown," a paean to having a good day, a boppin' little song about the joys that clowns and daughters and dogs can bring into a man's life; "Wasn't it You," about love which can grip you so hard that it takes an effort to breathe.

In "Not Crying," Kevin (with able help on vocals from Robin Lane) tells us: "There's something in my coffee, something that ain't sweet / Your memory moves heavy, down these dirty streets / Like lipstick stains on broken glass, and paddy wagon calls / I brace myself and shiver, and recollect the fall / From your tinsel town to your truck stop smile / I can see so clear from a thousand miles / But I'm not crying over you anymore...."

Kevin ends the album with a raucous version of Tom Wait's "Goin West." Distorted guitar and a sure-fire drum propel this song along to it's tag line: "I look good without a shirt!" -- and who could doubt it.

You don't get more Indie than this. Real Records is also now sole distributor for Kevin's earlier releases. To order any of these CDs, contact Kevin at his website. I guarantee you if you like this one, you will also want to go back and purchase Little Town, too.

[ by Jan Marica ]