“Do we get the thumbs up?” – Christian Kane Part One
I knew that of course, it seemed to me that Christian was prouder to be singing his own songs on tour with the band that he started, rather than living off the past. As it turns out, his output of songs with Kane is not to be sniffed at and if Christian is reading this, if my band had come up with songs of the quality we’ll discover here, I’d be proud of them to.
Kane are a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, the full band has guitars, fiddles and drums with vocals to die for but importantly it has the goods. Kane’s self titled and self released collection was out in 2001 and the second collection under discussion here is a live acoustic set from 2005. The band has secured a big record deal and is working on their new album, they have achieved their record label goal, and hopefully at the end of this you will understand why.
Sweet Carolina Rain has something about it that gives glimpses of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, the opening of the album. There are fiddles, guitars and mandolins and a song about driving! The Kane boys will have to write a few more car driving songs before they are into Springsteen territory but the images alone in this song, and the guitar parts are enough to hook you in. To me its all about the idea of freedom, the place is Carolina here but it could just as well be anywhere. I’m from the North of England and it rains a lot there too, but that won’t really sound as good in a song.
If you think the opening song is a country knees up on an album of nothing but knee slappin’ country songs then the second track should tell you otherwise.
Rattlesnake Smile is down and dark. It starts acoustic with haunting fiddle noises and menacing drums. The guitars howl and the lyrics seem to be from the point of view of a tortured man, a mild mannered young man who is now more than a little twisted inside. ‘Keep your distance’. Musically and lyrically this is a very interesting song and one that makes you instantly sit up and take notice. It has real depth to it, the guitars twang and Christian’s voice when he sings “Do I look like something you can put inside a fuckin’ cage!” I swear if you are not listening beforehand, that line will wake you up. We leave the rattlesnake alone with his tail in the air, ready to strike and the song disappears in a musical haze of drums. Brilliant song all round.
The Chase is a slower tune, and once again lyrically very strong because the first four lines but you in a bar with a drink, “a broken neon sign” and a bartender for company. Wherever you are in the world, you can picture that vividly. The song seems to deal with a man losing his woman because he couldn’t admit how he felt, so like any good man, he’s going to moan to his bartender and see if the answers lie at the bottom of a bottle. Then we hear he’s driving his truck through the rain to find her. The imagery drips off the song. “If you could hear it in my voice, see it on my face”, like he’d done everything to show her how he felt without actually telling her. The interesting part for me is at the end when we’re back in the bar with the neon sign, and the bartender is now telling the story. To who, maybe to the girl, maybe she went to find him and he went to find her and they never quite catch up.” You left him with no choice but to leave you, for the chase.”
Spirit Boy just grabbed me, straight away. Christian’s lyrics are sometimes so dense and detailed that he sings a little quicker to get them all in and they speed past you. That by the way is no bad thing, as a Springsteen fan I remember that is the great way he used to write, I’m thinking specifically of ‘Blinded By The Light’, the words fly and you don’t get them all immediately. This is lyrically another slice of Americana, a girl from a rich family is in love with an outlaw figure who is a wanted man. In true heroic ‘bad guy but you love him’ fashion, he rides into town in the middle of the night, guns down her dad and sweeps her off… There’s loads more to this but I’m not about to make it easy for you. Think Bonnie and Clyde, in the American South, cowboys, Indians, damsels in a dress…
And I’m running down this Indian highway
In a ball of red
I got a loaded gun and things are goin’ my way for a change
Well, you might think that I’m gonna be swingin’ from a tree
Oh, no I’m a spirit boy
Ain’t nobody gonna catch me.
The song starts acoustic but gets heavier thanks to the pounding drums on record, this is one of the stand out songs in the acoustic collection as well.
One More Shot comes once again from the point of view of a man who has lost his woman, and is asking for, you guessed it, ‘one more shot’. It’s an ‘everything is everything, but you’re missing’ kind of song. Lyrically straight forward the music sweeps along and there are some nice fiddle moments and a few drops of melodic guitar.
America High is the third stand out track on here; I can’t speak highly enough of it. According to Christian this was written after the September 11th attacks, and also deals with American involvement in conflict thereafter. Acoustically driven, lyrically this song comes from the point of view of kids, running into town and finding it deserted:
And those rocking chairs weren’t rocking.
The answers are gone
And there’s a sign that said “Closed” on the door.
Straight away you’re in the middle of a community dealing with some sort of aftermath, maybe staying in their homes in fear. The kids go and see a wise old man with a guitar and his words deliver a fist pumping chorus, after telling the kids about the boys and girls off “fighting for you today”,
“You dedicate your soul for god, country and Rock ‘n Roll
And get America high
That part goes down very well in concert I can tell you, and the feeling in Christian’s voice when he sings those lines…
There are some that will dismiss this kind of song as a shallow piece of patriotic flag waving but it’s catchy, well written and good natured in the message, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of patriotism now is there? This song absolutely killed at the Barfly in Liverpool and I’m sure it was a favourite at the other venues, playing to people who weren’t even American, so if they can buy into it for the few minutes its on, well then, there’s your success. It’s purely a great song and it speaks the truth, at the end of the day, music can make everything okay again, or at least it helps to.
Into the Darkness is a lament about love, a straightforward and short ballad with a true country romance twang to it.
The studio album concludes with a party song, with Christian’s lyrics speeding ahead of him on Oklahoma State of Mind. An up-tempo ending with a surprise hidden track which has slide guitar sounds and a Spanish flavour to the acoustic guitar playing, not the way you might expect this album to end but that’s rather in keeping with the whole collection.
There are real moments of strength in this album, the lyrics are strong and vivid, whether they paint a picture of a specific area or a more general feeling they add to the overall impact of the album and the musicianship is good too. Some bands that I have reviewed recently say that you (the listener) will find this, that and the other on (insert pretentious album title here). With this band it’s straight down the line, no promises, just the chance to listen and make your own mind up. Even the album title and cover is as direct as they can make it. They are a country band, they do rock, there is enough soul and character in Christian’s voice to persuade even the narrowest minded of music fans to give them ago. Many already have, judging by their concert attendances and the fact that so many are able to sing the words back to them when they perform live. It is no surprise that the record deal is on its way and this album is a great grounding for them to explore on any future material.
© Simon A. Moult / Moultymedia 2007
All rights reserved. Copying is prohibited without prior permission from the author.