Review: Kevin Sekhani- Sumner Street
With a voice slightly reminiscent of a young Steve Earle, solid songwriting, and musicians that include a member of Son Volt and veterans of the backing bands of Patty Griffin and John Mellencamp, Kevin Sekhani’s Sumner Street is one of the best debut albums I have heard in years. Somehow it slipped under my radar when released last year, but after being asked by Mr. Sekhani, a member of the online No Depression community, to listen to the album I did so and the record kept me company for most of the trip from Ohio to Florida. It displays a strong love of country music and classic rock, but more than anything else it displays, both musically and lyrically, Sekhani’s Louisiana heritage.
The album opens with “Walk Away From Me”, a mid-tempo rootsy rocker with a catchy chorus. There’s some excellent guitar here as well and overall it makes for a great opening. By the third listen, I was singing along.
Even better is “Carol Ann”, the album’s second and perhaps best track. This tune displays strong Cajun influences with its prominent accordion and fiddle, but it also has the raw power of a great rock song and some of the record’s best lyrics. “Then shortly after,” he sings, “for you I start livin’ right/When I’m runnin’ faster she’s ahead of me/Carol Ann”
“Jimmy” follows and it is in the spirit of classic country tunes from the ’60s. The song features rapid lyrics and a great finger-picked guitar. It’s not among my favorites on the album, but it is a fun, rollicking track, especially when its coming through you car stereo.
“Burial Ground” is a rock track with the band in excellent form and lyrics about loneliness and emptiness. “My last fear has been been used up/Six long years of feeling all dried up” he sings and then tells us that “Nothing changes, always stays the same”. Yet amidst all of this, the song manages to be so damn catchy that you do not get a sense of depression unless you stop and think about the lyrics.
“Wrong Direction” is one of my favorites on the album. With its ’60s rock styled-guitars, accordion, fiddle and gloomy lyrics about “Heaven on earth that feels like Hell” it sounds as if it could have been a Mellencamp outtake from The Lonesome Jubilee. And as anybody familiar with my past writing here or my personal taste knows, that is one of the highest compliments I can give.
“Oilfield Tan” is a tune that some of you on the site may already be familiar with. It was featured on the site’s music player and I also featured the song in a recent blog post about the Gulf oil spill. In this tune, another of the album’s best, Sekhani declares over a Cajun-influenced backing that he is an “oilfield man” and that “I baptized myself in all this water and sand”. Like Steve Earle’s “The Mountain”, Mellencamp’s “Rain on the Scarecrow”, and countless other songs in that vein the song tells the story of a group of people who are often forgotten and neglected in the modern world and celebrates their lifestyle. “Oil pays my rent,” he sings, “I’ll be a drillin’ S.O.B. ’til I die”.
“Jump Right Back” is a catchy country-rocker with another set of fine, albeit slightly bitter, lyrics. “You were one to never shed a tear/Bein’ alone was your one biggest fear/Yeah, it’s still gotta be done.” But as on “Burial Ground”, this is somewhat hidden by the catchy melody.
“Ballad of a Lonely Clown” is a great country break-up song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Buck Owens or Merle Haggard record.
This is followed by “Higher I Get”, a great country rock track that would have fit right into top 40 radio in the heyday of the Eagles (or for that matter, modern country radio although it is much too good to ever be heard there) with is electric guitar reminiscent of their “Already Gone”. This easily ranks as one of my favorites on the album.
“Goodbye” is a mostly acoustic ballad with some excellent lyrics (“The silence is what keeps me from bein’ warm”) and it displays Sekhani’s ability to slow things down with great results.
“Millionaire” is another Cajun-influenced country track, with a slight R&B feel to the melody.
“Kiss” is an acoustic rock ballad about an affair with a “neighbor’s wife” that began with “one innocent kiss”. Sekhani once again shows his penchant for catchy melodies and choruses.
The album ends with the title track, a classic rock-styled mid-tempo number that again deals with loneliness. I know this is getting redundant, but this tune also is very catchy and it makes an effective closer to a great album.
I would highly recommend this album to anybody who enjoys roots rock and Louisiana music. It blends both of these styles and more flawlessly and with his ability to craft memorable melodies, it’s a shame that things like that are no longer what sells records. But keep your eye on him in the future because this is only his debut.
Carol Ann by Kevin Sekhani