Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jamie Kent - All-American Mutt

Jamie Kent - All-American Mutt 

It is unfair to slap any sort of label on Jamie Kent’s third full length album All-American Mutt. This isn’t simply Americana, but there’s parts of that. Kent, instead, just deserves the moniker of “musician”. His influences clearly cut across a variety of borders, both compositional and purely stylistic and he’s able to vocally inhabit a number of different skins. Kent has been playing with the same musical partners for a number of years and two hundred plus live shows every year for the last few years has bolstered an already extant chemistry between the players. The name on the release might be one man, but they never play like they are merely a vehicle for Kent’s songwriting. Instead, this sounds like a band, live on the floor, and making even more of these ten songs thanks to their knowing interplay. 

The title song drives that point home fast. It sounds so effortless, like it flows out of Kent in a continuous wave, and there’s a confidence working here that has all of the rough edges smoothed out and comforts the listener instead of confronting them with their differences. Kent’s memorable chorus drives home the song’s ultimate point. “Look Up” is handled with deft, understated sophistication and builds its success from a restrained arrangement and lyrical content most adults will have no trouble connecting with even if they haven’t personally experienced a moment like this. “Home Again” could have sank under the weight of melodrama but, instead, it achieves a remarkable cinematic quality thanks to the specificity of the song’s details and Kent’s vocal creating a true flesh and blood character for listeners to care about. 

The sculpted acoustic guitar lines and lyrical vocal from Kent on the track “Safe” distinguish it as one of All-American Mutt’s standout songs. It has a perfect length and achieves just the right emotional pitch without ever seeming too purple or overwrought. The final two ballads on the album, however, are the highlights of how sensitive Kent can be as a songwriter and performer. The first of the two, “Red Rover”, teams Kent with the vocal talents of  Michaela Anne and the pairing provides a perfect accompaniment to carefully rendered backing track that the band provides in support. The last song “Embrace the Disaster” is, arguably, the apogee of Kent’s songwriting on this album. It feels like a track when Kent has found his largest scar and feels determined to rip away the scab so a different kind of healing can begin. Despite the delicate reading he gives the track, it is full of pain balanced by the soft and yielding voice of second singer Alyssa Bonagura. These two final moments on an album filled with memorable outings put a certain flair on the conclusion that its beginning didn’t hint at. All-American Mutt is a third album of entertaining depth and sets Kent’s stage for an even brighter future.  

9 out of 10 stars 
Pamela Bellmore

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