Music Review: Kenny James

I'm pretty used to artists from all over Canada sending me their new CD, in hopes of a review, a listen, a plug on the radio, whatever I can offer. And of course, I get lots of New Brunswick releases, most I hope, as that's where my priority lies. What I'm not used to is getting someone's CD sent not by the artist, or a manager/promo rep type, but instead, by a fan. Or fans in this case, a couple who knew and liked a guy in their area, and thought I should give him a listen. They are big enough CBC fans to know I hadn't picked up on this Sackville fella, and I have to give a big shout out to them for tipping me off. Thanks David and Diane!

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It's a debut disc by Kenny James, AKA Kenny James Mikalauskas, from Sackville. The above folks had seen him perform live, and admired his talents so much they were willing to part with their copy of the CD, hoping I'd enjoy it as well. It's a six-track, half-hour set simply called Kenny James, and their hunch paid off, I do like it quite a bit. He's a singer-songwriter with an alternative-country sound, his stated influences ranging from Ryan Adams to Wilco to the Bakersfield sound of Merle, Buck and Dwight. There's an easy gallop to much of the music, stories spilling out from the twangy, good-natured tunes. Pictures Of Rose is a haunted, reverb-heavy Western number, certainly with a touch of The Sadies in it. All In This Together has a garage band feel, down to the crazy organ. Soul Gambler goes back to the 60's too, a shaggy-dog type of tale from the Dylan-goes-electric school, with the organ and bluesy guitar heard on Highway 61 Revisited.

Those are the reference points, but on each number James has his own spin, and lots of strong lyrics. It's intelligent, well-crafted and polished just the right amount, James choosing to give each song a live-in-the-studio feel rather than a slick sheen. Sorry I've been missing out on this for these months, and thanks once again to music fans who love to spread the word.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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