The release of guitarist Mike Kennedy's Landfall is most appropriately-timed for those about to enter the sweet seasons of spring and summer. It is the ideal soundtrack for lolling in the sun.
With a quartet moving right in time with him, Kennedy utilizes electric and acoustic guitars, along with judiciously placed pedal steel, to conjure up that deliciously warm sense of well-being that comes from immersion in the light of sol. Yet for all the tranquility this music conjures up on tracks like "Rider," it is not by an means a somnolent atmosphere: the quietude Kennedy and company create is softly, deceptively charged with an energy derived directly from the decisive interactions of these musicians.
As on the title tune, the instruments tantalize with hints of wide-open space that is nevertheless rife with intimacy, Kennedy's guitar and pedal steel floating around Mike Frank's Wurlitzer piano, coalescing with Paul Gehman's bass and the drums of Dan Monagan, only to then drift apart again: it's almost as if the ensemble wants to allow the ensuing space to echo in its silence like yet another instrument. And over the course of these twelve tracks, the bandleader proves himself a humble and reliable role model of taste and touch.
Ambient as it sometimes sounds though, this third album of the Philadelphia-based musician's since 2002 does not work well as merely background sound(s). There's an undercurrent of emotion in compositions such as "Blues For Marisol" and "Where I Live" that should touch a nerve in even those listeners somewhat removed from what they're hearing; as a result, even music lovers who may prefer a more up-tempo style (and have to exert some patience to fully appreciate what the foursome are doing) may be drawn into and under the spell the quartet casts .
The slinky likes of "Drifter" doesn't so much belie the prevailing mood of Landfall as render it even more pervasive. The clipped tempo by which the band proceeds over the course of just slightly less than five minutes provides a delicate but nonetheless sure contrast with most of its surroundings, not to mention a demonstration of the economy with which they play. No matter how slowly the group moves, as on "Granger" or "Sky City," none of the foursome wanders.
Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that "Twilight" illustrates the depth in this recording supervised and mixed by Peter Richan (subsequently preserved through the mastering of Glenn Barratt). The simple black and white graphics of this CD package belie the varied sonic colors inside.
Landfall; Cocinero; Broken Branch; Blues For Marisol; Drifter; Twilight; Rider; Super 8; Granger;
Sky City; Horse (Ballad of Jawn Wayne); Where I Live.
Mike Kennedy: guitars and pedal steel; Mike Frank: Wurlitzer; Paul Gehman: bass; Dan Monaghan: drums.