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Somewhere Beyond the Roses

Kieran Kane

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Album Review

Roots fans frustrated by the lack of banjo and baritone sax folk albums now have their dreams come true. Kieran Kane's first solo release (away from the Kane Welch Kaplin collaboration) since 2002's Shadows on the Ground pushes acoustic music in dynamic new directions with the addition of baritone saxophonist Deanna Varagona (Lambchop). Her contributions to every track are nearly as integral to this project's success as Kane's honest vocals, impressive melodies, and thought-provoking, often dark lyrics. The brittle, plunking qualities of the banjo are perfectly offset by the horn's deep mellifluous tone, making this a match made in folk heaven. Kane may not have been the first folksinger to add sax, but there aren't many who do it this successfully. Electric guitar from Richard Bennett along with Kane's son Lucas' sparse percussion beef up the approach, yet this is still raw and stripped down. The material would be memorable with a typical instrumental lineup, but Varagona's husky sax lines, somewhat similar to those of Morphine's Dana Colley, bring an unusual and compelling jazz tinge to the material. Her vocals also provide shimmering harmonies to choruses such as the bluegrass-influenced title track. Songs like "Unfaithful Heart" might have commercial possibilities if they were sold to a contemporary country star, but Kane's naked, emotional readings are soulful, heartfelt, and raw. It would have been easy, even natural, to feature the saxophone prominently in the arrangements, but Kane and Varagona don't force that issue, preferring to let her solos coexist naturally by underpinning the melodies, never dominating them. David Olney, who has mixed horns with unplugged folk on his own albums, guests on call-and-response vocals during "Don't Try to Fight It," bringing a gospel groove to the proceedings. Certainly Little Walter never envisioned that his "Tell Me Mama" (the set's only cover) would ever sound quite as homey as it does closing out this challenging and genre-expanding release. Interestingly, Kane, who is also an accomplished painter, had his daughter Lucy contribute the evocative cover painting.

Biography

Born: 07 October 1949 in Queens, New York, NY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Best known as one half of the acclaimed new traditionalist country duo the O'Kanes, singer/songwriter Kieran Kane was born in Queens, NY, on October 7, 1949; by age nine, he was drumming in his older brother's rock band, while in his teens he turned his focus to bluegrass and folk, performing at festivals throughout the Northeast. At 21, Kane relocated to Los Angeles, where he labored as a songwriter and session guitarist; by the late '70s he had moved on to Nashville, where he landed a writing contract...
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Somewhere Beyond the Roses, Kieran Kane
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