CD reviews: Megan Jean and the KFB, Richard Thompson, Jim James
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Megan Jean and the KFBThe Devil Herself/Independent
Ever since migrating from New York to the Lowcountry a few years back, Megan Jean and her husband, Byrne Klay, have slowly built a fan base not just here in Charleston, but up and down the Eastern Seaboard and beyond.
They are seasoned road warriors, traveling most of the year playing their music anywhere they can to whoever will listen.
After a Kickstarter.com project that exceeded even their expectations (they set out to raise $8,000 and ended up with almost $11,000), the duo, better known as Megan Jean and the KFB, has released its latest studio album. The money they raised to record the album was well-spent.
The music on “The Devil Herself” begs to be heard through headphones, so that the listener can hear every sound, from Klay’s bowed bass and clawhammer-style banjo to Megan Jean’s washboard and bells and the creepy wail of a theremin on one track. There is a lot going on in the songs, and the duo has retained its love of the macabre that was exhibited on its last album, “Dead Woman Walking.”
For the uninitiated, the music of Megan Jean and the KFB sounds like the soundtrack for some long-forgotten carnival. Jack Skellington, the ghoulish hero of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” would likely have this album on repeat on his iPod.
The entire album works as a cohesive collection of songs, but some of the better moments include Megan Jean’s hypnotic vocals on “Mr. Bone Man,” the otherworldly beauty of “Martians” and what is probably my favorite track on the album, “These Bones.”
Megan Jean and the KFB are already back out on the road supporting the new CD, and will be back in town for a show at the Tin Roof in West Ashley on March 1.
Key Tracks: “Mr. Bone Man,” “Martians,” “These Bones”
Richard ThompsonElectric/New West
Richard Thompson doesn’t have as high a public profile as fellow British singer-songwriters Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. Nonetheless, ask any music fan worth his weight to name the best of the best in that musical family, and it is likely he will include Thompson’s name on the list.
From his early work in Fairport Convention to his collaborations with former wife Linda Thompson and his acclaimed solo releases, Thompson has always done it his way, and more often than not those musical bursts of expression have been well-received.
On his latest effort, “Electric,” Thompson continues his tradition of marrying thought-provoking and often darkly funny lyrics with melodic music led by his brilliant guitar playing.
“Stony Ground,” the track that leads off the album, is a bluesy number that features Thompson sounding a lot like Mark Knopfler stylistically.
And excellent tracks such as “Sally B” and “Good Things Happen to Bad People” demonstrate that even almost a half-century after making his professional debut with Fairport Convention, it seems that Thompson still has much to say musically, and he’s saying it eloquently these days.
Key Tracks: “Stony Ground,” “Sally B,” “Good Things Happen to Bad People”
Jim JamesRegions of Light and Sound of God/ATO/RED
While Jim James has spent the majority of his professional musical career recording and performing with his band, My Morning Jacket, he is no stranger to striking out on his own for side projects, including Yim Yames and Monsters of Folk.
“Regions of Light and Sound of God” is James’ first solo album of original work.
While there is some artistic stretching of limbs going on here, for the most part, fans will find the resulting music similar to what was on My Morning Jacket’s last album, “Circuital.”
Aside from the strings and percussion, James plays every instrument on the album.
The opening track, “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” starts the album on a slow burn, much like “Victory Dance” does on “Circuital.”
While not every song on “Regions of Light and Sound of God” is a home run, the album as a whole makes for some interesting listening.
Some of the better moments on the new album include the laid-back funk of “Know ’Til Now,” the Peter Gabriel-esque “Of the Mother Again” and the gorgeous “A New Life.”
Jim James is one of those rare artists who definitely hears vast symphonies of ridiculously original music in his brain. How fortunate for us that he chooses to share what’s rolling around in his noggin.
Key Tracks: “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” “A New Life,” “Of the Mother Again”
By Devin Grant