This trio’s Lost John Dean was one of 2006’s finest releases, a spare, wonderfully constructed collection of original numbers and one traditional tune. A friend of mine who heard the album referred to their jagged, rough-hewn primitivism as “snake music,” which strikes me as an apt term. The pattern here is much as before: Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch swapping vocals, accompanied by multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Fats Kaplin plus new drummer Lucas Kane (Kieran’s son) on a set of edgy, often raw acoustic tunes. Even without bass accompaniment, the sound is full and rich throughout.
While many numbers are dark and somber, the entire album seems imbued by a strong sense of spirituality generally free of the sort of pretense that often drags down such records. Even the instrumental “Zagnut”, featuring Kaplin on theremin, reflects an eerie mysticism. “Callin’ You” is a near-hypnotic semi-rap, as is Welch’s pulsating, surrealistic prison song “Dark Boogie #7”. Kane’s road song “Red Light Blinking” offers up nuggets of dry humor similar to that in Welch’s “12 Chimes”. Welch closes the album with a century-old hymn, “What Are They Doin’ In Heaven Today”, delivering a haunting, moving performance.
More than twenty years have passed the O’Kanes, Kane’s duo with Jamie O’Hara, broke through during the days of New Traditionalism. More than a few would love to see an O’Kanes reunion. Whether or not that ever materializes, it’s heartening this trio continues on that same raw path.