Kill Devil Hills
(Curious Records, 1999)

I must admit that I asked for this CD for review on the basis of the name. Everyone has heard of Kitty Hawk, of course -- the North Carolina town where the Wright brothers took their historic first flight. Kill Devil Hills is a neighboring town on the Outer Banks. I've been there for vacation a couple of times; it's a lovely area, though rather overgrown with vacation homes.

The band Kittyhawk and their first CD Kill Devil Hills have nothing whatsoever to do with either town. Boy, was I surprised!

Kittyhawk is actually New York City-based. The group is composed of Jennifer Zablocki (lead singer and songwriter), Pier Giacalone (various guitars), Rena Gray (backing vocals) and Rick Cutler (drums and piano). They are joined by various guest musicians on instruments ranging from bass to mandolin.

Kill Devil Hills rocks from first note to last chord. Lead singer Zablocki belts out the lyrics in a strong, low voice, with Gray's backup vocals soaring over her. The other musicians are equally enthusiastic about what they're doing. The songs all have a strong beat; I found myself drumming my fingers on my desk and keyboard while I was listening to this CD.

The album begins with "Richard," a solid, lengthy song about a man who doesn't believe that anything has changed, but whose roommate can see that he's just waiting to die. Guest musician Dave Anderson plays bass on this track. "Mercy" is a slightly quieter, rather sad song about people not living up to their potential. "Really Over Now" is a chipper, upbeat little song about the end of a relationship; the contrast of beat and subject is actually funny. "Touch" is remarkable not for the song itself, but for Rick Cutler's piano playing.

To be perfectly honest, when I first listened to bits of this CD, I didn't think I'd like it. For one thing, I was expecting something completely different (don't ask me what; I'm not quite sure). For another, I don't care much for rock and it was just a little too rocky for me. But when I sat down and actually listened to it all the way through, I found lots of things to like about it.

Give Kittyhawk and Kill Devil Hills a chance. You might find that you enjoy it too.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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