Kevin Sherwood – 8 Years Later
Kevin Sherwood is a man of many talents, actor among them, but one thorough listen to his debut solo album 8 Years Later will convince even the strongest cynic that this is his calling. Sherwood, a longtime veteran of the Los Angeles area rock scene, makes a seamless transition from the rough and tumble world of three chord rock and roll into the gentler, spiritually informed strains percolating through this album.
The album begins convincingly enough with the first number. “Desdemona” is firm in its penchant for the blues and permeates the gruff musicianship with laidback country flair and of course the requisite folk trot. “Peace Pipe” is much more enticing, better composed, and unwavering in its melodic mission. The vocal melodies allow for enough repetition to stick to the craw as the guitar work retains a lucid realism and just enough studio additives to give it a slightly polished sheen. There’s a bit of cello (or violin?) happening in “Propaganda Man” and the sentiment is welcome in the sense that it revitalizes the music with diversity. The problem with folk music is that much of it sounds the same whenever it’s just a man and his guitar. That worked in days gone by but now you need that little something extra for a listener to stand up and take notice of your work. You can talk about “All there is” without calling attention to Kate Prestia-Schaub’s wistful flute splitting the lion’s share of the work with the guitars and vocals. This is surely a song to recommend for folks wanting to get a feel for the variety on 8 Years Later.
“Sweet Inspiration” sees Sherwood reaching for a different vocal register and it doesn’t really suit him. Though his higher timbres are captivating, they distract from the music’s acoustic strengths. Kevin invites a drummer and bass player to join him on “Beyond the Sun” and yet again it’s a rather odd departure for the album. It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the material and feels like more could have been done with the increased number of players. Thankfully, this is a flaw that’s fixed on the similar “Into the Now” which rocks things out a bit with swaying bass grooves and some pocket flash percussion. The remaining tracks are all nice but only two really hit home from the rest. “Remember you” is positively uplifting even if it’s a rather lovelorn ballad. The vocals dip from a solid melodic palette and both the verse and chorus have several key lines that commit themselves to the memory banks. Also of note is closer, “Darshan Line” as it mixes a little bit of everything on the record; pop melodies, slightly uplifting guitar licks and a general, successfully expressed feeling of loss that translates well to the audience.
Kevin Sherwood is almost there but not quite. He has the ability and whenever his songwriting works, he comes up with several winning tracks. Even the filler tunes aren’t bad at all judging from current standards as they all feature at least one great guitar melody or two. If he can expand his compositional skills and carve more interesting lyrical portraits, he will be unstoppable on future releases. As it is, 8 Years Later is an above average first outing.