Jamie Kent – All American Mutt
The third studio album from Massachusetts native and Nashville based songwriter Jamie Kent finds him hitting a new stride following his last album release nearly five years ago. He has impressive fluency in a wide variety of musical styles and takes a number of imaginative and brave turns on this new release. Kent’s singing is immediately comfortable and his subtle powers of phrasing are capable of altering the emotional tint of any song. All American Mutt is a ten song release produced by Dave Brainard and is an impressively focused effort clocking at thirty minutes in change. Kent’s songwriting skills are honed to a sharp edge and avoid any of the self-indulgence you might hear with other songwriters, regardless of genre. Thousands of live performance have likewise polished his skills to a point where his confidence is natural rather than studied and apparent in every song.
The album’s title song throws every instrument into the mix and comes up with something quasi-anthemic. “All-American Mutt” is one of those old fashioned statement of purpose or identity songs music fans used to hear a steady stream of that the homogenization of country and pop music has hotshotted into irrelevance. There’s a lot of straight up writing talent behind this lyric – it aims at nothing less than a spot on summarization of early 21st century American culture and succeeds. “Look Up” is a noticeable shift into a slower tempo and a performance that accumulates its effects rather than showing all of its musical cards to the listener at once. Kent’s lyric and vocal alike show similar nuance and touch on some familiar elements of songs pursuing this subject matter while ultimately steering it into more personalized waters. The mood shifts again for the arch-commercial cut “Last Call”, but make no mistake, this song is built to make an impact and will be a lot of fun for many.
The music for “Home Again” is quietly mournful while Kent delivers one of the album’s best vocals and eerily embodies a first person lyric about a soldier going home after his time in battle has ended. Kent’s wise singing knows when to apply just the right amount of dramatic vocal force and hen to lessen the pressure on certain words or enunciate them in creative ways. The uptempo jaunt that “Diamond” takes is a good fit for probably the album’s brightest, most hopeful lyric and musical arrangement. Everything percolates on this track while Kent never allows the enthusiasm to carry him away entirely, but delivers a vocal beaming with delight. The ghostly waltz of “Red Rover” will move many with its atmospherics and the emotional duet between Kent’s tender voice and guest vocalist Michaela Anne’s equally beautiful singing.
All American Mutt closes with “Embrace the Disaster”, an intelligently titled and written lyric about a relationship passing through fire and the speaker’s hope that it emerges stronger than ever before from the other side. It has the whispery semblance of a dream and a persistent keyboard swell adds background color. It concludes the album with the second of its two duets and Kent finds just as able of a vocal collaborator in singer Alyssa Bonagura. It ends the release on an elegiac note that will linger in listener’s memories.
9 out of 10 stars
William Elgin III