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Guthrie Kennard - Matchbox

Rango Records

10 tracks

I’ve listened to this CD many times now and every time I come away with a new and different impression. At first it seemed to be a nice short set of songs with Dylan-esque gravelly vocals. I wasn’t at impressed at first as I am now. Vocally, it is a crackle-filled approach to singing, with drawn out nasal sounds and a little distortion thrown in. That’s only where part of the charm of this comes from; Kennard’s singing adds a little backwoods authentic sound to the songs.

What really sounds cool and made this album for me is the blend of acoustic, baritone and electric guitar work by Kennard with some slide, electric, acoustic, resonator guitars and mandolin interspersed throughout by four other artists. Couple this web of six string harmony with Kennard’s angst filled lyrics, and you have an interesting little CD with acoustic and electric guitar blended together well and vocals by Kennard and backed occasionally by a few more of his friends .

Who is Guthrie Kennard? He’s a Texas based singer-songwriter who was originally from Richmond, VA and transitioned to Texas between 1968 and 1971, when he made Texas his permanent new home. From his website bio: “He recorded with Smokin’ Joe and Doyle Bramhall, Sr, on Bird Records. Opening for artists including Robin Trower, John Mayall, Taj Mahal, Leon Russell and Donovan He toured Europe with Grammy winner Marc Benno, and co-wrote “Laverne” on Benno’s album “Snake Charmer.” While in Europe Guthrie played some great venues like the Womad Festival, The Colne Festival, Nuits de Blues, the International Music Festival in Turkey and most recently the Cork Jazz & Blues Festival in Cork Ireland. After a career of collaboration with some great musicians, Guthrie finally broke out on his own as a singer / songwriter to tell his own story on his first CD “Ranch Road 12” produced by legendary Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard. Now with his newest projects “Unmade Beds” released October 2009 and “Matchbox” to be released in early 2010 Guthrie continues to brand his own unique style of music.”

Kennard delivers a sound that is a blend of Piedmont and Texas hill country with lyrics filled with life’s struggles, hopes and despair. Songs like “Another Day, Another Dollar”, “Streets of Juarez” and “Bristol” evoke pictures of lives without hope, a dark and somewhat grim but realistic commentary on life in Kennard’s eyes. The melodies are simplistic yet haunting, and when you blend Kennard and the sounds of the other musicians the songs begin to grip you and tear at your soul.

The 10 tracks here depict an experience of life in Texas, a world where happiness is fleeting and every small moment of joy should be savored for it may be the last. As I said, these tracks grew and grew on me. Filled with darker themes and grit, but still a very interesting listen!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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