Kevin John Allen has been in this column before. Allen is a prolific writer that has written over 200 songs, including several that have been placed in movies and on television shows. He’s been slugging it out in small clubs from New Jersey to Nashville, Texas to Virginia, and all points in between the only way he knows how—straight from the heart.
Each live show is like a carnival ride through life’s wins and losses. It is music that will make you laugh and love; reflect on hopes and dreams; and grab a beer while remembering old friends.
I have said in the past that Allen writes songs with “down home countrified Americana delivery and honesty… Deep, dark and custom made for telling tales, he takes his time as he lays his complex, compositional madness in a crooked row.” And that feeling remains with his next release.
Raised in Bayonne, New Jersey, and currently living down at the Jersey Shore, Allen’s musical influences range from The Beatles and Bob Dylan to Guy Clark and Rodgers & Hammerstein. I also like to think of him in the context of writers like Warren Zevon and Charlie Pride.
Kevin was named Best Country Artist in the 2012 Jersey Acoustic Music Awards and “Life’s Lonely Rodeo” was #9 in the Top 10 of 2012 by New Jersey Stage.
Between his romps on local stages and nationwide tours, Kevin John Allen writes and records great and heartfelt music. His latest effort is called Colours. Colours mixes the traditional influences of aforementioned artists with Allen’s distinct vocal tone and songwriting skill. To say Allen’s voice is unique would be an understatement. It’s a low and baritone style not seen by many these days. But as unique as it may be, he has figured out how to get the most out of it in everything he does. I personally love the tone and how he uses it to achieve his musical goals.
Colours is mostly all Allen, but he does share credits on a couple of songs with Karlee Bloom as well as a song offered by Rodney Crowell.
Diving into the disc I came up with a few opinions and descriptions on Colours.
The first song on the disc is “Cadillac Motel.” Allen utilizes a strong mix of instrumentation here and I absolutely love the piano work of Karlee Bloom. Allen builds his composition carefully, taking each pass to gradually increase the songs presence before fading into its ending. The guitars of John Fernandez and Bo Pezzullo mix well underneath Allen’s trademark vocal sound. Lyrics tell the tell of finding whatever you’re looking for at the Cadillac Motel and Allen’s descriptive powers paint a very descriptive picture.
The country honky tonk skronk of “Serving Up Love” is up next. Pedal steel vibed guitars courtesy of Pezzullo and or Fernandez fly over the top of this truck stop flavored love song as Allen tells the story of the diner girl he truly loves. Once again, instrumental work here is perfection for its chosen style. Drum work of Bob Buecler locks in tight with bassist Michael Feniello. This is great work and one of my favorites on the disc.
Next up is the disc namesake “Colours.” The style here ranges into the swampy, blues-flavored direction of Jimmy Vaughn or Albert Collins. Allen’s knack for writing different styles that fit into the overall sound is dead on here. The guitar work is brilliant and complementary to Allen’s vocal delivery. Organs whirl underneath solid bass and drum work as well. Allen’s lyrical viewpoint is dark and stormy here, laying down realistic outlooks on life, luck and the road we all travel on throughout our existence.
Another interesting track is “Danger Road.” Slide guitars weep under Allen’s lament to the task of getting back to the one who knows what he needs. The band hangs back for a bit but comes in nice and mellow. Allen picks some great musicians for his project and this is no exception. The middle-eight guitar lead is pure Cropper goodness. The female voice in the next bridge is the alluring and welcoming invite in from the cold for the ride of his life.
“Blue Is The Color Of The Rain” is another standout tune. The viola work of Christie Kecskemethy and pianos of Bloom serenade the listener as Allen unrolls his lyrical theme. Once again Allen’s subject matter concerns the one he feels strongly about. Laid-back and breezy, this is a well-crafted song that shows Allen as a true writer in the vein of James Taylor.
“The Long Journey Home” reaches into the old western days of cowboys and gold towns. Allen does great justice to this Rodney Crowell tune. The imagery of saloons and horseback run rampant as guitars gently brush against pianos and ethereal background vocal pads courtesy of vocalists Layonne Holmes and BethAnne Clayton. The middle-eight piano work of Bloom winds into Valerie Dowds cello work and Allen’s acoustic guitar in the most beautiful way. Allen’s lyrical paintbrush takes wide swipes at the long journey back to simple times and it works well.
“Winters Day” is a co-write between Allen and Karlee Bloom. Pianos intro the piece with an airy and expanded openness. Instrumental in nature, “Winters Day” is a tender, short piece that works well within the structure of the overall disc.
The disc ends with “Keep ‘Em Smiling Buddy Boy.” Acoustic guitars chop and strum under Allen’s low baritone. I really like the choruses on this song. Melodic and intimate, the lack of major production here works like gangbusters.
Colours was produced by Steve Jankowski of JankLand Studios in Belmar NJ and he did one hell of a good job with the overall disc and direction.
Kevin John Allen is an accomplished songwriter that hasn’t missed with anything I’ve heard to date. This CD is a concise and consistent work of musical art that should score more than a few top-notch notices for Allen. My suggestion would be to pick up Colours as soon as possible as I’m sure you will enjoy Allen’s original style.
To hear more about Colours and to see what Kevin John Allen is up to next, head over to kevinjohnallen.com.