Kenny Meeks,
Tell My Angel
(Big East Music, 2000)

Sometimes it takes a bit of luck. Every now and then there's still a bit of thrill when there's a new CD by an unknown artist waiting in the letter box. Even if experience teaches you a different lesson, there's still the hope that this musician might take over your sound system for some time and bless you with his/her music.

Kenny Meeks? Never heard that name before. The bio sheet is taken from his website which, as of this writing, has been visited by only 860 people. So either he issued his first album only a few weeks ago or not too many people seem to know or care about his music. You read on: he calls his band the Southern Soul Masters -- quite a bit of confidence there -- and then you stumble over the names Buddy and Julie Miller. Meeks has gigged with the two. Promising. Could this be a rough, undiscovered diamond? Julie Miller sings backup on three songs and it's now that this release gets my full attention at last. Would Meeks actually be able to deliver the music he's promising in his bio? He claims to blend together "elements of country, rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, and soul music," which could be everything and nothing at the same time.

You press the play button and the musical flow starts hitting you; the cutting harmonica, the powerful Hammond organ, the pumping bass and the drums, and last but not least an exciting guitar. As if Booker T. & The MGs finally arrived in Nashville.

"Page Out Of History" is a hell of an opener. Meeks' voice seems oddly familiar, but I'm not sure who he reminds me of. There are parts Huey Lewis and parts Lyle Lovett, but neither is quite the source, so one has to settle with the impression that Kevin Meeks sounds foremost like Kevin Meeks. The confident, slightly hoarse voice is all his. When guest vocalists Leigh Nash or Julie Miller join him, the voices blend together nicely and the result is quite amazing. Coincidence or not but those four tracks with one of the two able backup singers are all among the best songs on this album. "Who Am I?" -- a woeful ballad played with an inspired guitar -- is one of the standout tracks here. The title song "Tell My Angel," a good example what the term Americana stands for, is another one.

Meeks is a master of tasteful arrangements, who knows where to put his licks to the best effect possible. He doesn't go for the cheap thrills, still he gets what he wants: a steaming mix of soul, country and rock. His abilities on several guitars, the mandola and the harmonica are also noteworthy.

"Tell My Angel" tackles the temptation of a new start someplace else; the subject of "I'll Be Superman (You Can Be Lois Lane)" is self-explanatory and is done with the necessary mock grin behind the words. "One Way Avenue," the last track on the record, deals with the peculiarity that you often disappoint those who love you most.

With a satisfied feeling you take the CD out of the player again. No disappointment here. Even if there are one or two weaker tracks on the album, Meeks proved himself to be quite a find. And it seems like a pretty safe bet that when you check out his homepage the visitor rate will be considerably higher than 860, because with a sound a strong as his the word is bound to get around.

[ by Michael Gasser ]

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