Summer to Snowflakes

Urban Campfire 1011
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There’s a lot of instrumentation on Terry Kitchen’s latest CD and, impressively, he plays much of it himself—everything from acoustic and electric guitar to auto harp, harmonica, and melodica. Friends pitch in with keyboards, percussion, horns and harmonies. You’ll hear hints of bossa nova, reggae, New Orleans funereal horns, rock and roll, and guitar-based folk. And, at the end of the day, it is the latter than lingers longest. For all of craft that goes into this record, it feels like folk before it got all flashy.

Like all good folk musicians, Kitchen is one part story teller and one part stump speaker. He conjures moods and images, as he does on “Listening to Summer,” with its evocation of baseball games, insects, breezes, comfort food, and moonlight. From this he slides into “Cherokee Run,” a social commentary that juxtaposes the modern auctioneer’s hammer and the land grabs that disenfranchised Natives more than a century ago. The sentiment to social commentary blend that opens the CD is maintained throughout. Sometimes the social commentary is highly ironic, as in “Last Straight Boy in Ptown” where he wryly writes: “Tonight they’ll all be dressed up and making champagne toasts/I’ll be in the shadows drinking whiskey with Norman Mailer’s ghost.” On occasion he turns nasty, as in his incisive skewering of the American Dream on “Why Do I Hate My Very Nice Life?”

How much one will enjoy this album pretty much rides on one’s personal sentimentality quotient as Kitchen’s wistful songs list pretty heavily in that direction. Is a song about adults pushing Little Leaguers to be stoic (“Be a Man About It”) a moral lesson or a cliché? A song about singing with a kitten in the room (“Audience of One”) cute or trite? They’re probably a bit of both actually, and I prefer his songs with more bite, like “Love You too Soon.” But, as I said, this is a matter of taste, not a critique of Kitchen’s choices. How can I say otherwise when Kitchen rounds off the album with “Snowflakes” and its plea that we, like frozen crystals, should all be “a little different.”

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