Used to Be is one of those songs which feels like an old friend. As soon as its classic tones come tumbling out of the speakers, its familiar country undercurrents, its late 60’s soaked, west coast, singer-songwriter vibes, its reflective and sentimental lyrics, you are immediately put at ease. But there is also that slight, “have you done something different with your hair” aspect which also goes with such reunions of old friends. And it is this balance of familiarity and freshness which makes it such a great sonic experience. The former makes for a relaxed, enjoyable experience, the latter keeps you wanting to know more, to dig a bit deeper, to listen even more intently.
This Brooklyn-based musician has been steadily putting the work in, he has 2 eps under his belt and been slowly building up a reputation for exploring the deep rooted sounds and traditions of the broadly termed Americana sound and using them to create music which both tips its hat to the past and strides confidently into the future. Kevin Daniel’s music is helping to write the latest chapter in the American musical experience.
And his contribution to that latest chapter in the annals of American music is the glorious Things I Don’t See album and right from the opening salvo, the subtle and supple blends of bluesy breeze, soulful undercurrents, folky honesty and lilting New Orleans jazz integrity which is City That Saves, marks it, and the man behind it, out as something special. Very special indeed.
Pour Me A Drink is a blistering waltz, one which matches power with poise, Xanax, Cocaine and Whiskey is a gorgeous bar room brawl between country and music hall sonics, an honest peaen to the dark energies which have always had their part to play in the musical experience and Name of Fame is where he goes full country but does so with taste and tact whilst juggling tradition and truth.
It’s a great album, one which tells its own stories, tales of the road, of life and love, of the world as he sees it, no punches pulled, no heartstring unplucked. But more than that it says a lot about Kevin Daniel as a musician. It obviously shows off his ability as a song-writer, it displays a love for and deep understanding of the wide range of genres which have forged the quintessentially American sound. But more than that it tells us that this was an album which required the timing to be right. With two eps and a bunch of singles to act as stepping stones, this was a record which wasn’t rushed, which perhaps he couldn’t have made a few years ago, which has benefitted from restraint, caution and time spent on the learning curve. And the result is an album which already feels like a classic.
With this as the first, full-length album, it makes you wonder what he is going to do next and in the years that follow. Who knows? All I know is that on the strength of Things I Don’t See, it can only be glorious.