Kieran Kane, Kevin
Welch & Fats Kaplin,
Lost John Dean
(Compass, 2006)

Lost John Dean is living-room music of the first order.

Recorded in six days, including mixing, with the artists doing the instrumental tracks at the same time they laid down their vocals -- no changes, edits or overdubs -- Lost John Dean has a loose, friendly, down-home vibe to it. Close your eyes and Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin are in your living room, open guitar cases on the floor, instruments in their laps as they sit in a circle and play and sing for you.

The key to the album lies in Kane's statement: "With this record, like most of the records that Kevin or I make, we didn't know what it was going to be until we did it."

This CD isn't typical Nashville product. It is music.

The album opens with an up-tempo song of Kane's called "Monkey Jump" that features a seemingly random list for lyrics: "Pistol with half a grip / torn white satin slip / 10 yards of dirt drapes / stack of old acetates..." but when the song comes together, it turns out they are not random at all. There's a complexity under the song's simplicity.

That's the way it is with most of their work. Nobody oversells a musical moment. Nobody works too hard trying to convince you of the song's (or the singer's) importance. These guys are not singing and playing for the glory or the money; they're in it for the song. The singing is as laidback as the playing -- everyone gathered around a single mike during the recording and let the songs lead the way.

These guys have all been through the Nashville mill. Both Kane and Welch have had solo careers recording for the major companies. They've seen what the machine does to the music and they deliberately turned their backs on it. They know that the song is more important than the singer, and these songs are brilliant. For all of their surface simplicity, they have a density and depth to them so that each time you hear them, another level is revealed.

You're going to want to hear them a lot. Lost John Dean is the real thing. We need more of it.

by Michael Scott Cain
9 June 2007

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