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Album Review

While many folks put a high premium on productivity, Chris Kowanko's second album, Spell, proves there's a lot to be said for taking your own sweet time writing a record. Released nearly nine years after his blink-and-you-missed-it semi-major-label release Kowanko, Spell's dozen tunes will win him no prizes for prolific output, but anyone who loves smart, well-crafted pop songs that balance heart, humor, and delicious stick-in-the-ear melodies will be grateful that Kowanko decided to favor listeners with a second batch of songs. Kowanko's lyrics often favor his angular sense of humor ("Apologies expected, and it's time I think/I publicly denounce acting like a dink"), but he never seems to be indulging in quirkiness simply for its own sake, and he's able to wrap his oddball lyrical sensibilities around more serious subject matter (usually romance) without straining for effect (particularly on the lovely "Heaven Again" and "Net"). (His songs are also the perfect match for his voice, which suggests a cross between Jonathan Richman without the feyness and Black Francis without the psychosis.) For Spell, Kowanko had a valuable partner in the studio in producer Steve Fisk; Fisk and Kowanko played the mass of keyboards that provide the backbone for these songs, and the result is an album that manages to sound rich and enjoyably distinctive without excess clutter (bassist Tony Shanahan and drummer Graham Hawthorne also deserve to be cited as a superbly solid and unobtrusive rhythm section). One would certainly hope that Chris Kowanko doesn't take another nine years to make a follow-up to Spell, but if that's how long it takes to make an album this strong, perhaps listeners should be willing to wait — sometimes the good stuff takes time.

Customer Reviews

It was worth the wait.

I'm proud to say that I'm one of those people that actually owns Chris Kowanko's debut CD, "Kowanko". And this follow up, "Spell" shows his brilliance in songwriting and his ability to conjure up reflecting moods with melodies. There are few artists in my personal collection that I can say are the soundtrack to my life. Chris Kowanko is one of those artists. I appreciate, enjoy, recommend and share his music with anyone who loves real music with real meaning that is open and honest. My personal favorite tracks from "Spell" are "Cry Uncle", "Heaven Again" and "Everything Must Go".


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A gifted singer/songwriter, Chris Kowanko has made a pair of fine albums when not busy with other careers in acting and visual art. Born in Australia, Kowanko's parents emigrated to the United States when he was young and eventually settled in Minnesota. In time, Kowanko developed an interest in both theater and art, which took him to New York City in 1983, where he became involved in a number of theater projects. When not acting, Kowanko wrote songs, some of which were used in a variety of off-Broadway...
Full Bio

Top Albums and Songs by Chris Kowanko

Spell, Chris Kowanko
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