CD Review – Kenny Smith – Return – Gat3 Records
Producer Glenn Tabor also should be commended for making sure the production was first class. Recording and mixing quality was exceptional. The natural sting and bite of a banjo, mandolin or fiddle make for easy distinction in a song’s mix, but, making a sweet sounding vintage guitar hold it’s own in that mix takes expertise, “ears” and a commitment to making the final mix even, level and listenable. Kenny made a wise choice in making sure the talent behind the recording board was just as good as the talent in front of the microphones. The team effort made for a wonderful result.
While listening through the first time, I suddenly realized that I had lost track of which song I was listening to…… so, I started over. There in lies the problem. So many of the songs, some standards…. some originals…. had about the same tempo. One right after another. “Black Mountain Rag” stuck out immediately because it was faster than the previous songs. It really cooks! And the energy was a welcome relief. With the tempos and arrangements so similar, any uniqueness each song might have had was lost. I think that with stronger songs and more variation of form and meter, it would have pushed Kenny to new heights. I would have loved to hear him just soar! He certainly has the hot licks….. but, does he have the desire to be a dare devil? Risk can sometimes define an artist.
My favorite song of all was “Jesus Loves Me.” I found it sweet, tender and emotional. Kenny’s playing on it was genuinely warm and moving. He played with more feel here than anywhere else on the CD. He nailed it in a very simple, but heartfelt rendition. I found myself disappointed that it was so short. In his liner notes, he stated that they included it because they needed a slow song. I would call it a missed opportunity….. I would have loved to hear more of what Kenny’s heart, rather than his fingers, might have told him to play on it. More care could have made for a song that had a very real impact on the entire CD.
There is so much I like about “Return.” Kenny Smith has all the talent in the world. He surrounded himself with the best of friends and side men. He turned a love of fine, wonderful and historic instruments into lasting art. His producer had his best interests at heart. The quality was there. A better selection of songs could have made all the difference in the world. This was a labor of love, from a musicians point of view, that seemed to be aimed at other musicians. This could have been a GREAT CD……… for a much wider audience.
W.J. Hallock is a musician, entertainer and songwriter with years of recording, stage and writing experience. Contact him at: Reviews@PrescriptionBluegrass.com