Alex Kash,
Florida Heat
(Emotive, 2005)

When Alex Kash moved to southern Florida, he was asked over and over again what his impressions were of the area. As the ultimate answer to that question, Kash created this compilation ablum, Florida Heat.

The term "compilation" takes on a stylistic meaning as well, as his songs are reminiscent of popular singer-songwriters. The harmonica and musical pace of "The Real You" has a bit of a Billy Joel feel (think of a South Florida "Piano Man"). The mellow pace of the title track, "Florida Heat," has a mellow mood and vocal pacing not unlike a James Taylor piece. The easygoing ballad "Gone Fishin'" could easily be mistaken by some parrotheads as a Jimmy Buffet tune. Kash also adds some regional cultural seasoning to some of the songs, notably the Calypso folk taste to "Mango Season."

While the style of Kash's music has familiar and comfortable elements, the method of music-making is rather intriguing. Kash employs a tricky form of veiled simplicity in his music. Outside of two songs using additional vocals, the bulk of the album contains just Kash using his voice (no overdubs), a 12-string acoustic guitar and an occasional harmonica. Until reading that in the CD jacket notes, it wasn't an easily discernable situation. (Think of it as a musical form of those 3-D puzzles that were popular a decade or so ago. Once you know what to look for, it becomes obvious thereafter.) Kash does a wonderful presentation that seems to be multi-faceted when in reality he's using an intentionally limited musical palette.

Kash's vocal approach is particularly peculiar, because at times he doesn't stay in a comfortable, manageable range. Especially evident in "Love Lives There" and "Only Tonight," Kash pushes the upper limits of his vocal range, to the point that he sounds like he's straining/struggling to hit the notes. It's not an unsettling experience, though, because the straining effect actually accentuates the songs' inherent emotional meaning/intent. Whether this effect is intentional or not, it's perfectly suited to the mood of those songs.

And although some songs take on a more noticeable influence, that's not to say that Kash doesn't have his own style. There are plenty of songs that highlight Kash's versatility in approach and performance. "Hurricane Storm" takes a more frantic pace compared to "Just a Little Bit of Soul" and "Kicking Back on Borrowed Time," which showcase Kash's more mellow blues edge. "Where the Light Shines" and "Unwinding" have a light rock feel that showcase Kash's complete package of talented sound.

Actually, one could make that claim to the entirety Florida Heat; is is just that: a complete package of talented sound. So, kick back and take a mental trip to southern Florida with Alex Kash. (Plus, you can experience the Florida Heat without that awful humidity.)

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

24 November 2007

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