Experiment on a Flat Plane
(Terminus, 2000)

Experiment On a Flat Plane is the latest release by Soulhat. Headed by Kevin McKinney, Soulhat has been around in one incarnation or another for more than a decade. It has been six years since their prior release! And was it worth the wait? Perhaps. This is not a bad CD at all.

Based on the title, a person might wonder just what the experiment is. According to a quote from Kevin at the Terminus Records site, "To make an acoustic album -- the kind you don't bring home to mother and as it turned out we couldn't resist tossing in some nasty Texas guitar." Perhaps I only think this because I live in Dallas, but I think that the "nasty Texas guitar" is one of the highlights of the CD.

The musical style changes quite a bit throughout the 12 tracks. While most of the music fits in the folk-rock genre, there is enough blues, soul, funk and even one tune, "Mailbox," with a bit of a reggae beat to catch your attention. Most of the songs would fit nicely on your standard alternative or college radio station.

The best selection is, without a doubt, "Flat Plane." This acoustic piece is a bit reminiscent of XTC in the mid-'80s -- at least as far as the sound is concerned. Kevin has a very distinct voice. It is a bit harsh and gravelly. In fact, you could almost say he rasps like someone on the verge of losing his voice. But it definitely works with the songs that Soulhat deals with in this experiment.

One of the more amusing pieces on the CD is "WNBA," in which Kevin sings about losing his girlfriend to women's basketball. The music has a country twang to it that is actually fun to listen to. You can tell the band is enjoying themselves as they belt this one out. I can only imagine that it is a favorite when they play live.

I am almost convinced that I have heard "Skin" before. I am wondering if it has had airplay, at least locally. This song is a lot calmer than most and perhaps their best example of folk rock. It has a very sugary melody and I can only urge you to check out a sample of this piece (and the prior two) at and see what you think.

I suppose I should mention that Kevin sings and plays guitar. The band is rounded out by bassist Johnny Vogelsang, guitarist Mac McNabb and drummer B. E. "Frosty" Smith.

Experiment On a Flat Plane is the fourth release (one being an EP) that I know about by Soulhat. I feel that the band is at least worth checking out. Their style various enough that you are bound to like at least some of it, perhaps all of it. My only hesitation would come from having a limited CD budget. This CD is good, but not necessarily a must-have. But if you have the bucks, go for it. Even if you aren't wowed, I doubt you will be disappointed.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 23 February 2002

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