Journey Road is the first solo album by Kev Wright and it’s a lifetime in the making. For years and years, Kev was in various kickass bands, playing blazing blues and rockin’ guitar --- most recently with The Righteous Hillbillies. But through it all, he had always dreamed of making his own album, making it HIS way --- with no agents, managers or even fellow band members getting in the way and clouding his vision.
But he chose a much different route for this solo album than one would think. Those who are familiar with any of Kevs previous works will be quite surprised. This is not a blues album. This is not a high-energy- balls-out rock and roll album. And for a guy who can rock the guitar like few others and was once known for kicking out the ten minute guitar jams, there’s hardly a guitar solo to be found on the entire album! I won’t call this an “unplugged” album – a term that has been used to death. And while it is a very “acoustic” album, don’t for a moment think it’s not loaded with energy, conviction, heart and soul.
Kev couldn’t have written this album when he was 25 years old – or even when he was 35 years old. This is a record only a veteran could make – a veteran of music, a veteran of life --- for it takes one to live life to be able to reach inside and create such a variety of memorable songs. So sit back, relax and let an old-hand spin you some yarns. You can still play it loud, I sure did.
What follows is a tune by tune review for all:
- Someone Else – Kev wastes no time getting right to it with a witty up-tempo rollicking tune with clean, clear smooth piano riffing throughout and great way to open the album. The acoustic guitar and drums are crisp and precise. This song is recorded brilliantly – as is the entire album. Right away, Kev shows his hand by NOT featuring a guitar solo, instead we hear a very cool Dr. John style piano solo. It fits the song just right.
- Money Roll Blues – A quick little laid-back shuffle tune, not unlike something that would have appeared on a latter-day Steve Earle album. Subtle harmonies sprinkled in and out add a perfect seasoning to a tasteful song.
- Love is a Stranger – A cool mid-tempo “from a prison cell” song. Probably would be considered a country tune today if played on the radio – and that would be wrong --- but don’t get me going on the toxic state of Country music today. Tom Petty said, “Country music today is just bad rock n roll, with a fiddle.” There ya go – need I say more? Today, The Georgia Satellites, The Eagles and probably even ZZ Top would be considered country. Lord ‘elp us. Anyway, back to “Love is a Stranger.” Great lyrics such as “10 years has been hard time for me to do – and it was too much time for you.” Another clean, crisp recording, the vocals are right there --- level-wise and a very slight echo keep it real. The mandolin adds a delightful touch.
- Journey Road --- Ah, the title track. If an album has a title track, that is, if you name your album after one of the songs, it better be a good song. This is a standout title track. “Don’t look for heaven in the depths of sin” is just one line of the cool lyrics in this song. Life is a journey and Kev reminds us of that here. He masterfully commands the vocals in this song like he’s never sung before. You will be pleasantly surprised at how good his voice is, taking away the screaming guitar allows us to really hear it front and center for the first time. Musically, the organ adds a great flavor – gives it a feel like “TheBand.” Great organ solo with a good bass line and clear-cut drums makes this song a pleasure to listen to.
- This Place --- Right off the bat, this catchy song made me think of John Mellencamp’s Lonesome Jubilee album. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that! The acoustic guitars, mandolin, and female harmony add the texture to this song, as does the accordion we hear throughout … “This Place” has a small town feel --- A town with the closed-down factory and even with all its faults Kev sings, “right now this place is comfortable, and this place sure feels like wonderful to me.”
- Ol’ Black Dog – A little ode to man’s best friend. A best friend like no other. “He can’t borrow money and he can’t tell a lie.” Just acoustic guitar and dobro – that’s all this tune needs…
- The Likes of You – A country-acoustic tune – yes, I admit this is a country song. But by country song, I mean a song in the grand tradition of someone like Dwight Yoakum. This tune even comes complete with pedal-steel guitar and lonesome harmony vocal. Good country-song-lyrics but not silly lyrics often attached to a similar type melody. The whole story is there in 2:50.
- 20 Pound Hammer – This mandolin-driven tune bears little resemblance to the high-octane Righteous Hillbillies version previously released. But this arrangement is really cool – probably this is how Kev wrote the tune alone in a room with just his acoustic guitar. Add the bass, drums and a rocking mandolin and you have a great up tempo tune. No Marshall amps in sight and it still rocks! And listen to that mandolin --- an out of this world solo that features someone who has a familiarity of true bluegrass.
- Crashin’ From The Sky – A laid-back number without drums – another stellar acoustic tune, great vocals and that great subtle female harmony.
- Down to Nashville – Kev Wright has never written a 2 minute 19 second song in his life. Well, until this one. A hopeful-musician song with great harmony. Many have been in this situation, a musician hoping to catch a break in the city of musical dreams. Different musicians in different cities have reached for that same dream. There’s even a great banjo that moves the song along – fitting perfectly with the arrangement. However, don’t expect a typical happy ending --- Kev ain’t letting you off that easy! Make sure you listen to the story.
- I’ve Been to the Mountain – Starts out as a solo acoustic song – for the first 50 seconds --- then morphs into a gospel-type Leon Russell-ish song – again, unlike anything Kev has ever written or sang. Background vocals and the organ really make the song. This one is a true surprise – as our many of the songs on this record.
- Hey Mr. Barczy – about a prison guard and how his job affects him after work and during normal everyday life. Another bare-bones song, no drums, just piano, acoustic guitar, and haunting vocal.
- Worried Mind – Kev on the harp – and does a great job too. A rollin-down-the-interstate song with a great little acoustic guitar solo, harp solo and once again, more lightning-fast bluegrass-style mandolin.
- Nothing But Good Things – A short and to the point love ballad featuring more great steel guitar.
- Forever to Say Goodbye – You want to hear Kev sing an original Irish tune? Then this is it --- yes, a mug-slamming-beer-slugging good ole Irish drinking song with Kev even affecting a bit of an accent to go with the lyrics and melody. Mandolin, fiddle, sing-along-chorus, it’s all right there folks.
- Tremblin’ – Tremblin’ begins with a neat slide-dobro intro. This is a talking-blues where one can imagine a scratchy old 78 record sound as the song plays. It’s a perfect way to end a record that touches on many genres --- and very interesting ones at that, especially when one considers Kev’s musical history until this album. The opening “up-tempo” tune and this poignant final track are perfect bookends for the feast contained within. Many pleasant surprises are in store for all…….