Jamie Kent - All-American Mutt
Making over two hundred live appearances a year, placing high on the bill of major music festivals, and touring with iconic musical units has prompted a blossoming in Jamie Kent’s talent that was always coming. It was just a matter of time. His promise has been evident since his 2009 recording debut and the ever increasing profile he’s enjoyed since then is a testament to talents that set him far apart from today’s average Nashville songwriter. His skills for exploring a variety of different musical styles in a convincing fashion isn’t common magic and his comfort singing in these different modes has no discernible differences. The ten songs are well balanced in their stylistic spectrum and never favor one approach over another. This gives the release an ultimately cohesive effect that few albums ever really achieve and the masterful track listing plays a significant part in that.
The title song starts off the album with confidence and music that’s never ornamental. There’s flair in the bass line that listeners would have never associated with a Nashville based musical outfit even twenty years ago. The rock and country influences informing this performance match quite well and the populist feelings of Kent’s lyric get a fantastic vocal from him. There’s a bit of Jimmy Buffett creeping in on the good time vibes of “Last Call”, but Kent plays this song a little straighter and it creates a nice contrast. The layered musical arrangement powering “Home Again” has simplicity working for it as well, but Kent’s songwriting once again accomplishes surprising result through stark contrasts. The soft ache of the playing here dovetails nicely into Kent’s muted and sorrowful vocal. The inventively played and arranged “Be Your Man” ranks as one of the most jovial moments on the album and the upswing of Kent’s vocals reflect the same yearning.
“Diamond” is the album’s breeziest number by far, but it never feels rushed. This is an outright love song filled with that first flush of commitment you feel when it feels like you’ve met the partner of your dreams. There are hints of other things going on lyrically here, but the dominant mood is quite upbeat. All-American Mutt’s greatest ballad comes with “Red Rover” and, in part, the reason for the song’s stature is thanks to Kent dueling with second vocalist Michaela Anne in a slowly developing and deeply emotional duet. The song’s musical arrangement has an almost painterly quality – the sparse elements gain added emphasis over time and, eventually, the incandescent individual parts of the song result in a much greater whole. The final blast of fun for listeners comes with the track “Sheila” thanks to guest Huey Lewis’ rollicking harmonica and the inspiration in Kent’s vocal. It’s his most playful performance by far. All-American Mutt is a powerful album from beginning to end and there are no real lulls in the journey. This is a well-presented musical affair that doesn’t cheat the listener and engages them on a physical and mental level alike.
9 out of 10 stars