Been Here Before – Kevin Daniel (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

When writing about the previous album, Things I Don’t See, I sort of suggested that Kevin Daniel’s sound got to the heart of what Americana is, for this UK based music consumer, at least. Just like most genres, however, it is almost impossible to get two people to even agree on what the term means. If it is music that gets to the heart of the American experience, music which feels like a soundtrack to life in that great country, music which could only have evolved there and which is woven from all of its musical strands and sonic histories threads, then Americana it certainly is.

The album is forged from frayed folk threads and sonic, alt-country designs, blueys moves and roots-rock grooves, it exists at a place where the singer-songwriter vibe is fleshed out by the full band experience, where rock weight is subsumed with a more pop-aware sensibility, where music traditions are pushed through the present to help shape the future.

Tracks such as Don’t See The Light turn deft rock moves into lush gospel sensations, My Oh My is a bluesy, soul-soaked slice of beauty and Horizons takes country traditions and polishes them for a modern audience.

And like any great album, it is the shifting of the mix of genres, the constant wandering across the musical Venn Diagram which keeps things interesting. Sure, you can pick out any number of recognisable sounds and styles but it is how Daniel mixes and matches these building blocks, pulls and pushes them together to fashion songs and create new sonic architecture, which is the real charm here. After all, the Sistine Chapel is essentially just another, predictable pile of stones and plaster if you look at it one way, look at it another and it is a creative masterpiece. That may be over-selling the situation, but the point that I am making is that just because someone is working with traditional form doesn’t mean that they can’t create something glorious and longlasting, unique and deftly constructed.

Been Here Before may sound familiar when you get right up close and examine what’s going on, but that isn’t the way to appreciate art. Step back a bit and you will see, make that hear, what is really happening here. I’m not saying it’s the musical equivalent of The Sistine Chapel…actually, why not, perhaps it is, except with mud on its boots, the keys to a pick-up truck in the pocket of its torn jeans and a Sturgill Simpson song playing on the radio.

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