The Kenneth Brian Band,
Welcome to Alabama
(Southern Shift, 2011)

Danny Click,
Life Is a Good Place
(independent, 2011)

In Welcome to Alabama the (of course) Alabama-based Kenneth Brian Band isn't offering up anything wildly novel. Still, one must allow as how it would render contemporary country radio less excruciating if it were played there. Which it won't be; it's just adventurous enough to put off the robots who program the playlists and keep the IQ level low. KBB is part Mussel Shoals and part Nashville, as was -- I suppose still is -- Hank Williams Jr. The difference is that as he alternates between neo-country and Southern rock, Brian does not come across as an overbearingly insufferable lout.

Lead guitarist Brian writes all save one (Dickey Betts' "Nothing You Can Do") of the 10 songs, which are all agreeable enough if you like this sort of thing. If my interest in Southern rock, albeit respectful, is a distant second to my interest in other forms of Southern music, I can recognize the good stuff when I hear it. Brian is also a good singer and a capable instrumentalist, and everything hums along at a nice pace. "Last Call" is a favorite of mine, no doubt because its melody, lyric and sentiment remind me of the Everly Brothers. I doubt that this particular call to mind is unintentional.

Singer-songwriter Danny Click, who works out of Austin, is not any kind of country artist. Life Is a Good Place features what used to be called folk-rock, though here nothing suggests a familiarity with actual folk -- i.e., traditional -- music. (The promotional material accompanying the CD reports that he once played blues, not that you could tell as much from the available evidence.) What I do learn immediately on opening the disc package is that Click mourns the death of a beloved dog, which immediately endears me to him. The album is dedicated to his late buddy Bernie, pictured inside, a dog whose personality shines through even in that one photograph. Before listening to his music, I already had Click pegged as a good guy.

Beyond that, he traffics in lyrics- and narrative-focused, guitar-driven, sometimes acoustic rock in the vein of Tom Petty, John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams. It's all straightforward and enjoyable, if nothing you haven't heard before. A certain melancholy pervades the 11 cuts, most of them relating the story, I gather, of a painful break-up and slow recovery. "Warhorse," apparently a fond remembrance of Bernie, will break your heart if there's a special dog in your life whom you'll never stop missing.

music review by
Jerome Clark

25 February 2012

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