Tuesday, May 31, 2011
CD Album Review- Matt Kennon- 77
Just a year after making some country music chart noise with a semi-autobiographical story of how a phone call saved his life as a baby with “The Call” as well as a parting with his BamaJam music label, Kennon returns with this independent album titled after the year he was born.
Matt Kennon is blessed with one of those voices that, for better or for worse, sets him apart from the rest of the radio dial; from the minute he opens his mouth on his hit song “The Call,” it was clear that the gravelly and deep voiced Kennon is working with a different instrument than most. It took nearly half a lifetime, however, to find out the genetics of where it came from.
In an interview that I did with Kennon over at The 9513 a year ago, he told of that story in “The Call,” the second chorus of which deals with a young mother grappling with the heart wrenching decision of whether or not to keep her new baby. It was from Kennon’s own personal experience of being that baby that the song’s lyrics took root. Kennon’s birth mother was in an unfortunate economic situation and had made the painful decision to abort him. The doctor that was seeing his mother knew of another patient, a mother who had lost three of her children in a terrible house fire, who had just found out she was unable to conceive more children. The doctor matched up the two mothers and the new family adopted Matt.
Why that is important is for two reasons. First, “The Call” and four other songs from his debut album have been rerecorded and included on 77. Secondly, that theme of an edgy smoke-stained and breathless voice paired with a song themed with a positive message carries over into his second album. Kennon has a place in no-man’s land- a rocker’s voice in a country song- and pushing a cause. “You Had To Pick On Me” tackles bullying, “Wake Up Dancin’” celebrates his faith and obviously “The Call.” It’s an interesting combination of an edgy country-rock driven with electric guitar sound with sometimes syrupy lyrics. The message songs are combined with up-tempo southern rock songs that sometimes lean on cliché’s a little too much such as on “Too Loud”- “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” They’re designed to get you on your feet in a bar room and they’re probably successful in that forum. Critically, they can come off a bit bombastic. It would have been interesting to hear Kennon provide a couple of stripped down acoustic pieces or a couple of extra ballads to help balance the album out. The one new stand-out track for this listener was the one traditional honky-tonk tale of heartache and loss, “I Can’t Get Back.”
Movie voice-over guy Don LaFontaine singing country music
I Can’t Get Back
Two and a half stars out of five